Students Prepare for California History DayFriday, December 12, 2003 By Jasmine Peters
A number of social studies teachers have incorporated into their students’ coursework a project for an annual “science fair for history,” as social studies teacher Mark Rhomberg describes it. Many students, predominantly sophomores and juniors, have spent the last few months preparing their presentations for History Day, a nationwide contest sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) that encourages historical research and understanding. The contest, held at the county level on Jan. 13 and 14, allows participants to present their research in any historical topic through a variety of media, such as historical papers, live performances, websites, documentaries, historical diaries, and exhibits. Social studies teachers added History Day projects to their curricula partly in order to teach their students effective research methods. “Learning is higher-level thinking,” said Rhomberg, who believes firmly in the importance of developing research skills. He has previously worked as a teaching assistant at UCLA, where he observed that many students suffered from poor research habits. Although History Day does not offer its winners a monetary incentive, participants earn the merit of recognition and a certificate of achievement. Furthermore, the competition fosters a spirit of understanding about “such things as historical context, cause and effect, impact, and balanced research,” as detailed in an informative pamphlet released by the CRF. Members of faculty, such as the librarian, are also actively involved to encourage student participation. Administrators, members of the PTSA, and members of the immediate community, as well as an official judge from the CRF will be judging the school-wide competition. History Day is open to all students between the fourth to twelfth grades. The contest progresses from the school level to the county level, and then to statewide and national competitions. "I don't see how students can go on to college without developing their research skills,” said Rhomberg. “After all, history is research, and research is history."