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Thousands of Students Examine What Came Before Through National History Day Projects

54 City Schools students head to state competition

What do the Statue of Liberty, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Navajo Code Talkers, and the Great Postal Strike of 1970 have in common? They were some of the topics chosen by more than 4,500 City Schools students for their year-long National History Day projects!

National History Day projects are flexible learning and creative experiences, open to 6th to 12th-grade students, encouraging them to explore their interests and use their voices to express what they learn about historical events. Across the district, students pick any historical topic they want - covered in curriculum or not - and create projects that speak to National History Day’s yearly theme. This year’s  theme was Debate & Diplomacy in History. 

The results this year were compelling and presented as educational museum exhibits, documentary films, informative websites, and student performances. For example, Charlotte Subelsky of Roland Park Elementary/Middle School created a powerful and reflective documentary "Laws of Conscience v.s. Laws of Government: The Debate Over the Catonsville 9" that asks “does honoring one’s morals and virtues always justify one’s actions? If so, does this remain universally true in all circumstances, even to the extent of breaking the law?” 

Another student, Abe Stollbach of Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School, developed an expansive website exploring the annexation of Hawaii. His site is an interesting dive into the topic including a thesis, background, and analysis of how factors like race, diplomacy and imperialism came into play. 

Just last month, 200 students, including Charlotte and Abe, took their projects to a district-wide National History Day competition. After a review by a panel of judges composed of local college professors and educators, 54 students advanced to the State National History Day Contest on April 30 at UMBC. Charlotte and Abe are among those competing at the state level. 

When asked why he chose his topic, Abe said, “I’ve always found Hawai'i interesting. It’s the only US state not on the North American continent, it’s the farthest south US state, it’s the only US state with a royal palace, and it’s the US state with arguably the most climate variation. So, when I first heard about the annexation of Hawaii, and the history behind it, I was intrigued.” 

That kind of freedom and flexibility is key to engaged learning. And allowing students to explore what interests them makes National History Day a popular project that supports key skills. Says Alexandra Fleming, Education Specialist - Social Studies at City Schools, “Through National History Day, students build skills researching historical events or time periods, creating a thesis or argument about that event, and using primary and secondary sources as evidence to support their claim. It’s a robust program that makes learning fun, meaningful, and interesting.”
Best of luck to all City Schools students competing in the State National History Day Contest! To learn more about National History Day, visit


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