Guest Post: Connecting Washington Students with Their History

Students compete in Washington State Historical Society's annual History Day.

As Lead Program Manager at the Washington State Historical Society, Molly Wilmoth connects the public with Washington’s history through educational programming and events. Here, she tells us about one of her favorites—Washington History Day, which is happening April 21:

History Day functions similarly to a science fair. Students develop projects related to a historical theme developed by the national office in Maryland. With the ability to select the format of the project, students create incredibly detailed and impassioned works representing many diverse historical topics. Projects may be presented as ten minute long documentaries or performances, or they could be a historical paper, exhibition or website.

This year, students have competed at eight different regional contests and have advanced onto the state contest. The Washington State History Day contest will be held on April 21 at Green River Community College. With the theme of “Conflict and Compromise in History”, projects will face off for the opportunity to travel to the national contest held at University of Maryland.

For nearly forty years, Washington’s History Day students perform at exceedingly high levels, particularly at nationals. Some students have received special opportunities or scholarships related to their History Day projects. The History Channel honored several Washington documentarians with monetary awards while others have traveled across the country for museum openings and special honors.

However, the true value of the History Day program is not in the national honors received year after year, but in the lessons learned at the classroom level. Through historical thinking, inquiry, and research, students learn about important research and critical thinking skills they carry throughout their careers as students and into the real world. The Washington State Historical Society is honored to play a role in educating the students of our great state alongside some truly exceptional teachers.

Members of the public play a necessary role, too. Each year supporters of the humanities and social studies education volunteer as judges to review entries and provide constructive feedback to students. Through interviews and written comments, judges help provide a positive and memorable experience for students and encourage them to remain curious about their topics of interest.

If you’d like to learn more about the program or are interested in volunteering or judging projects at the state contest, check out our website.