Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past.
The NHD 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
- the ability to see connections over time.
After learning more about the theme, students should begin thinking about and exploring topics for their History Day project.
In order to draw a connection to the theme, students must understand the historical significance of their topic and answer questions about time, place, and context. Understanding the impact and significance of the topic will help define why the topic is important and draw this connection to the theme.
California Theme Materials
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Picking a topic for your History Day project is the most important first step. You must make sure that your topic fits within the annual theme, that it fits the category (exhibit, documentary, etc.) you want to pursue, and that it is narrow enough so that you can tell its whole story easily.
History Day is fun, but it’s also a lot of work. You’ll be working on this project for many months. It is important that you choose a topic that you are really interested in learning more about.
We encourage you to pick a person or event in history that isn’t all that well known. For example, pick a locally famous person. Go to your local library or museum and find out who the important people are in your town’s history. We think you will be surprised to find some great stories in your own backyard. Or, if that doesn’t interest you, dig through your social studies book and find a name you don’t know. There are plenty of people who made important contributions in history that no one knows about. It is most important that you choose a topic you find fascinating. Don’t hesitate to look at areas you are interested in, even if they don’t appear to be historic. History can be found in science, sports, transportation, and fashion. History is not all about dead presidents and treaties. Research something you want to know about!
Ask yourself several questions to determine a general subject area that you can narrow down to a more specific topic. Do you like music? Are you interested in Japanese shoguns? Do you wonder who invented the microchip or how Haydn’s classical music is similar to the punk rock of the 1980s? Do you admire Japanese animation and wonder where it got its start? Everything has a history, so let your imagination fly. Then, start making lists.
- What or who are you interested in?
- What sports, hobbies or activities do you like?
- What are you really good at?
- What are your favorite subjects in school?
- Were any of your relatives involved in key moments in history? Talk to them. Many parents grew up during the Cold War Era, for example. Ask them to tell you what it was like.
- What is your town or local region famous for?
- Are you curious about how our region in Sacramento coped during historical events like the Great Depression or Prohibition?