National History Day: Judging at the Baltimore City District Competition

Posted on March 8th, 2018 by

This post was written by JMM Visitor Services Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

373 history-loving students from 26 schools across Baltimore City worked steadily since September to research, revise, and design their projects for this year’s National History Day Competition. The National History Day Competition encourages students to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice and present it their research in one of five ways: a paper, an exhibit, a website, a performance or a documentary.

After months of hard work, students selected from their schools presented their projects for the theme “Conflict & Compromise in History” at the Baltimore City District Competition this past Saturday. I was happy to volunteer my time to be a judge for the day. I had the pleasure of judging middle school exhibits.

Volunteer judges receive our instructions, and coffee, before going to see the student’s projects. About 100 volunteers, over the past few months, donated their time to be judges for National History Day.

This year’s theme had students addressing conflict and compromise. There were numerous ways this theme could be interpreted. The lack of compromise could lead to a conflict. A conflict could be resolved by a compromise. A compromise could prevent a conflict from occurring. There could be all conflict and no compromise.

Student exhibits on display in Patterson High School’s cafeteria at Baltimore City’s National History Day Competition on March 3rd.

Student’s topics reflected how diverse this theme was. They moved beyond dates and names, and expressed opinions, interpreted, and analyzed events. They spoke about their inspirations for choice their topic and both the short-term and long-term impacts these topics had on communities. Some of the topics that I got to see included: Nutmeg for the Big Apple: How 17th Century Conflict and Compromise Shaped Modern New York City, Blackface: Is it Conflict?,  Galileo and Catholicism, Baltimore Riots, Women Changing the Newsroom, and We’re Not Tomboys, We’re Athletes.

Students used both primary and secondary sources to research their topics. Their displays contained quotes, photographs, maps, and graphics to interpret the theme.

At the Jewish Museum, we are also addressing this theme of conflict and compromise in our upcoming special exhibit Amending America: The Bill of Rights, on loan to us from the National Archives and Records Administration. This exhibit explores the origins of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and how Americans have amended, or attempted to amend, the Constitution throughout history. Seeking to amend the Constitution on topics such as expanding individual rights, voting rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ human and civil rights, are all issues that are directly connected to seeking compromise from a conflict.

Judging the students exhibits proved to be conflicting as they were all incredibly well done and very thoughtful. While it was difficult, winners for each category were selected. After the awards ceremony, I was left with an incredibly inspired by the passion for history that all of the students showed. Good luck to all of the students who are off to Maryland History Day on April 28th!

While the next National History Day Competition may be months away, please remember that the Jewish Museum of Maryland is an excellent resource for research on Jewish history and heritage. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Amending America: The Bill of Rights on display from April 8th to May 28th.

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National History Day and the JMM Judge

Posted on February 19th, 2015 by

NHD logoFor the second consecutive year, the JMM education department was invited to participate as judges at various school-level competitions for National History Day. For those of you who don’t know, National History Day (NHD) is a lot like a science fair, but for history. According to its website over half a million elementary and middle school students participate in the competition each year. Students can work by themselves or in small groups to research an historic topic that fits each year’s theme. They can then present that topic in a number of ways: an exhibit (the classic trifold), a poster, a website, or even a theatrical/dance presentation. A winner is chosen from each participating school, who then goes onto regional competitions, and then finally, the national competition, which is held each year at University of Maryland’s College Park campus.

The contest encourages students to develop not just research skills, but also critical thinking and presentation skills. I think it’s a wonderful idea for getting kids excited about history—since they get to choose their own topics—and to practice or be introduced to these crucial skills that are often skimmed over in schools that are strapped for resources and time.

Similar to last year, JMM was invited to judge at several of our partner schools, including Morrell Park and Mount Washington Middle. We are truly honored that these schools consider us to be such an important part of their communities!

Last year, Ilene Dackman-Alon and I both participated as judges in the Mount Washington Middle School contest, but this year, Morrell Park’s conflicted with it, so we divided to conquer. She went to Morrell Park, and I went to Mount Washington.

Being a veteran judge was helpful this time around. I remembered that I’d run out of space to write my notes last year, and so I made sure to have some spare paper to write on. The teachers at Mount Washington also found their experiences from last year to be helpful because they announced some organizational changes this year that definitely helped make things go a bit smoother. For example, this year, instead of being assigned to judge several different types of presentations in different rooms, my team of three judges was assigned to judge only exhibitions which were all housed in the gym.

Theme Book CoverIt was clear that the school had made an effort to reach out to all kinds of community partners for the event, which was great to see. Just in my little team, we had an educator from the Maryland Historical Society as well as the Director of Programs at the Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL).

As always, I had a great time seeing what these students could accomplish! The year’s theme was “Leadership & Legacy”, and there were even a few students who decided to be very creative with that theme. One in particular stood out because the group decided to research McDonald’s as an example of bad leadership and legacy! Their project detailed how McDonald’s was a leader in the fast food industry by peddling cheap and very unhealthy food, which in turn was affecting the national childhood obesity rate. I was impressed with their ability to look at varied sources and to create a supportable, but still interesting, argument.

Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in my duties as a judge (it’s not easy!) that I completely neglected to take pictures!

abby krolik A blog by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.

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National History Day

Posted on January 15th, 2014 by

Typically every week, the education staff gets many requests to schedule school group visits to the Museum.  Over the past week, in addition to field trip requests, – we have had several requests from schools to participate as judges at the schools’ upcoming National History Day competitions.  Over the years we have been invited by schools to  participate, but I thought it was kind of unusual that in the past week, three separate schools have reached out to the JMM to be judges at their school’s National History Day competition.


I wondered what would be involved – being a judge ….. it just sounds so OFFICIAL.

So, I did some investigating about National History Day.  National History Day (NHD) is a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students.     National History Day makes history come alive for students by engaging them in the discovery of the historical, cultural and social experiences of the past.    NHD inspires students through exciting competitions and transforms teaching through project-based curriculum and instruction.  Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites.

Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The National History Day theme provides a focused way to increase student’s historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time. This year’s theme is Rights and Responsibilities in History.

In addition to discovering the exciting world of the past, National History Day also helps students develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • research and reading skills
  • oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • self esteem and confidence
  • a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process

After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators.

As a judge, for National History Day, each judge will be given a rubric and some “interview questions” for each student. Each judge will be given a set amount of students to interview and judge based on the final project.

The National History Day program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park. This is where the best National History Day projects from across the United States, American Samoa, Guam, International Schools and Department of Defense Schools in Europe all meet and compete. This year’s competition will be held on June 15 – 19. 

The education staff at the JMM is delighted to be asked by our partner schools to participate in such an exciting learning experience for area students.   It’s wonderful that history and social studies are being taught in our schools.  The fact that teachers bring their students to the JMM for field trip opportunities and attend professional development workshops only reinforces the importance of history museums in our community. It’s even more exciting that teachers view the Jewish Museum of Maryland as an important stakeholder in our community.

You can find out more about National History Day by visiting their website at and more information about Maryland History Day here!

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more post by Ilene, click here.


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