Excitement in APUSH?

October 14, 2010 — by Ashwini Velchamy

Research… for fun?

While most students feel content with the amount of work in their social studies classes, a group of students are expanding their interest in history with the national History Day competition.

History Day allows students to show their skills in research, interpretation of facts and history. They present these results in one of five categories: website, exhibit, essay, performance and documentary.

This year, 40-50 students plan to participate, double the number from previous years, according to librarian Kevin Heyman, who helps run History Day at the school.

History teacher Matthew Torrens said more students than ever have decided to participate this year.

Junior Sabrina Cismas, president of the History Day club, said the increase in participants came after changing the club’s name from History Club to History Day Club as well as the summer homework they received about researching History Day.

“I first heard of it because Mr. Torrens said it was extra credit,” said junior Megan Kao, “and also because I was interested in history. And this year the topic is something I am really interested in.”

The topic for the year, “Diplomacy and Debate: Successes, Failures, and Consequences,” generally garnered good reviews from the students.

“It sparks a lot of fiery topics,” said junior Christopher Jones.

Others found it as something they could relate to.

“I’m really interested in it, because I like to find out how things work, and why there are clashes between people,” said Kao.

According to Heyman, students have started the process of selecting their topics and narrowing down their field of research. They have to find a category that best suits their topic type, as well as choose a faculty adviser. By the end of the month, they should start their researching.

“I know getting things together can be challenging, but I want to make sure our group actually gets it done,” said Jones.

Some people, like Kao, have set higher goals for themselves.

“I really want to expand my knowledge on history itself. I’ve heard that you really learn about other people’s topics, and it really broadens your view on history itself,” said Kao.

Torrens, who has been working with students on History Day for the past eight years, said the highest level the school has reached was having someone be an alternate to the national competition.

“There are counties in the state that require every student to do history day,” said Torrens. “We’re competing with schools that have kids who do it both years of junior high and all four years of high school. So, that’s pretty good.”

According to Heyman, the research done for History Day, while intense, improves the skills of the participants and ensures their readiness for college work.

“I think History Day is a really good way to do some real high level research,” said Heyman. “They have to draw conclusions and represent their cases to judges on the county and state level, and maybe even the national level.”

History Day has granted students an opportunity to work on their own and find out what sparks their thoughts and ideas.

“The kids have a lot of freedom,” said Torrens. “They can research what they want and build it in a way that suits their interest. Once they get into it, they start to produce this product they take a lot of pride in.”