History Is On Its Way to Washington

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More than half a million young people from Maine to California are finalizing written reports, editing documentaries and polishing original performances - all in hopes of gaining a trip to the nation's capital and perhaps winning a scholarship as a finalist in National History Day's annual student competition.

Now in its 30th year, National History Day is a year-long program aimed at stimulating interest in history among middle and high school students and their teachers. Following competitions at the district and state level, winners will advance to the finals held each year in June at the University of Maryland's College Park Campus just north of Washington, D.C.

Most of the state finals - to determine who advances to Washington - will be conducted in April and May. Prizes are awarded at all levels of the competition, including over $150,000 in scholarships for national winners.

This year, in a unique partnership with the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, winning projects will be displayed at the museum in Washington, D.C.

Each year student projects are tied to a common theme - this year it's "individuals in history." Students choose their own topics of study and research from original sources. They look up historic documents and artifacts, conduct oral histories, search the internet for information and travel to historic sites.

Their final work might appear in the form of a museum-type exhibit, video documentary, performance or traditional research paper. Projects are judged at all levels by historians and other education professionals.

Earlier this year, National History Day announced a $1.9 million contribution by philanthropist Kenneth E. Behring. In presenting the gift, Mr. Behring said, "There's nothing more central to the education process than learning about the individuals, events and movements that have shaped our way of life." In recognition of Mr. Behring's generosity, Dr. Gorn said the national competition will be called the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest.

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