This Year's Theme

"The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely."

~ E.O. Wilson, American Biologist, Pulitzer Prize Winner and Professor Emeritus Harvard

What Is National History Day?

A distinguished national program and the 2011 recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal of Honor, National History Day is a year-long program that helps student develop the following critical skills and abilities for their future:

  • 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

NHD accomplishes this through history-based learning that is grounded in civics literacy.

Each year, thousands of middle and high school students and teachers across the United States participate in National History Day, a year-long educational program that culminates in a national contest every June. Students prepare original projects using primary sources and compete in a local contest. The winners move on to a state competition. Those winners move on to the national competition in Washington. Along the way, every participant gains first-hand experience conducting historical research and analysis and by producing a documentary, exhibit, essay, performance, or website. Through this journey of exploration students learn to synthesize information and develop balanced conclusions based on their findings.

Hear about this experience from our NHD Philly students:

Video by students Haftom Khasai & Malik Neal for NHD Philly

See where NHD Philly is serving Philadelphia

Read about this year's theme.

When and where are the local, state and national competitions?

See homepage of this website for upcoming dates.

  • Philadelphia regional competition
  • Pennsylvania State competition
  • National competition

Experience the Philly competition through the eyes of Molly Thompson, a student at Abraham Lincoln High School.

Do all students compete together?

There are two divisions in the National History Day program:

  • Junior Division — grades 6-8
  • Senior Division — grades 9-12

Within these divisions are nine categories of participation at the local, state, and national competitions.

  • Paper (individual only)
  • Individual exhibit
  • Group exhibit
  • Individual performance
  • Group performance
  • Individual documentary
  • Group documentary
  • Individual web project
  • Group web project

Groups may include 2-5 students.

For guidelines and judging criteria for all categories except web projects, see the Contest Rules.

How are projects judged?

Projects are evaluated on whether students completed original research based on the theme. Effective NHD entries address the following:

  • The topic's importance
  • The topic's relevance to the Theme.
  • How the topic influenced history. (Demonstration of the topic's importance or influence in history.)

In addition, students must demonstrate the use of primary materials, such as quotes from historical figures and photographs of historical events, as well as secondary published sources by authors who were not eyewitnesses or participants.

See How Will Your Entry Be Judged?.

Can a student participate if his/her teacher isn't willing?

Yes. Contact Us and we'll help find a mentor for you!

How can a student enter?

The first step is to complete a Registration.

Next the student should ask his/her teachers to work with them and other students in the class to guide them in producing their projects. Many educators across the country incorporate National History Day into the classroom work. The National History Day program helps teachers to meet national and state learning standards and testing requirements.

How does NHD help students meet learning standards?

In addition to supporting content learning requirements, National History Day offers problem-based learning, portfolio assessment, integrated math, writing, and communicating. NHD also supports skills building:

  • Planning and conducting an interview by writing open-ended questions and organizing them.
  • Improved telephone and letter-writing skills.
  • Taking notes and writing an outline.
  • Using the library and keeping organized.
  • Evaluating the importance of information to a topic and organizing it well to communicate to others.

Read the History Day, Pennsylvania Standards, and the PSSA Reading and Math Anchors

Test your skill with Are You Smarter than a NHD Student, a game designed by students at Christopher Columbus Middle School.

National History Day is a program that supports learning across the curriculum!