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 What is National History Day - Orange County (NHD-OC)?

NHD-OC is Orange County's chapter of a year-long educational program tied to the National History Day​website program and contest. Through their participation in this program, students in grades 4-12 become amateur historians on their journey to discover the significance of their chosen historical topic.​ 

Students across Orange County participate in the NHD program by using it as a means to provide highly engaging history instruction and showcase student achievement. NHD directly supports the History-Social Science Framework (content, inquiry, literacy, citizenship), Common Core standards (project-based learning, interconnected learning, etc.), the 21st Century Skills Framework (critical thinking, problem-solving, etc.), and College and Career Readiness.

 What is NHD? 

Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide, participate in the National History Day (NHD) contest. NHD is a year-long educational program in which students become historians. The program directly supports the Common Core standards in Language Arts with its focus on research and argumentative writing. Students choose historical topics related to an annual theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research by using libraries, archives, museums, and oral history interviews. They analyze and interpret their findings, draw conclusions about the significance of their topics in history and create final projects to present their work. These projects can be used at the school site for rich project-based learning experiences and entered into competitions at the county, state, and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators.  

Why should you invest in an NHD program? NHD Research Data suggects dramatic increases in student scores and improves student performances across all subjects when NHD becomes part of the curriculum.

 Why should students participate?

In addition to learning how to think creatively and critically, students will also gain valuable experience in collaborating and communicating with others. In short, NHD directly supports the California State Standards and HSS Framework with its focus on research and argumentative writing. Moreover, students will acquire more confidence in their own ability to learn and be better equipped to overcome the challenges of college and career.

 What categories are in each division?

The Elementary Division (grades 4-5) consists of four entry categories:

  1. Individual Poster
  2. Group Poster
  3. Individual 
  4. Group Podcast

 The Junior (grades 6-8) and Senior Divisions (grades 9-12) consist of eleven entry categories:

  1. Individual Podcast 
  2. Group Podcast
  3. Individual Historical Paper
  4. Individual Documentary
  5. Group Documentary
  6. Individual Exhibit
  7. Group Exhibit
  8. Individual Performance
  9. Group Performance
  10. Individual Website
  11. Group Website

 NOTE: An individual entry consists of one student. A group entry consists of 2-5 students.

 How many entries can each school send to NHD-OC? 

Schools may enter two (2) entries per category, per division.​

 What is included in an NHD Project?

NHD entries consist of the project itself (e.g., performance, website, etc.) as well as a title page, process paper, and annotated bibliography. The annotated bibliography reflects the research students have done and is the heart of the project. Refer to the rulebook for detailed instructions for developing an annotated bibliography.

Each project also includes a thesis statement that is supported by evidence. Check out the website for Student Project Examples.

The process paper is a short description (no more than 500 words) explaining how students conducted their research and created and developed their entries. The description must conclude with an explanation of the relationship of the selected topic to the contest theme.  Refer to the rulebook for detailed instructions for developing the process paper.

 What will students do while participating?

Students may work in groups or individually. After selecting a historical topic that relates to the annual theme, students conduct extensive research by using libraries, archives, museums, and eyewitnesses to deepen their understanding of the relevant events. They analyze and interpret their findings, draw conclusions about the significance of their topics in history, and create final projects to present their work. Project choices include a performance, documentary, historical paper, website, exhibit, or poster (elementary only).

 How does the contest work?

NHD projects can be used at the school site for rich project-based learning experiences and/or entered into a series of competitions, from the school, county, state, and ultimately to the national level depending on each school's program and the success of the entry. Students first participate at the school, or school district level, to reach the Orange County competition.  Champion entries from the OC contest go on to represent our county at the NHD-California (NHD-CA) competition.​ The state contest is the highest level of competition for the Elementary Division. Champions at the state competition in the Junior and Senior Divisions advance to National History Day held at the University of Maryland each year. Although the overall contest experience could depend on the sponsoring school, the county competition is open to every school district and participating school in Orange County.

 How are projects/entries evaluated?

At each level of competition beyond the school contest, volunteer judges evaluate entries. The judging process at school-level competitions varies from school to school. Judges at the NHD-OC competition are volunteers and typically have NHD judging experience, some with as many as twenty years. New and experienced judges alike attend the NHD- OC Judge  Orientation prior to the event to receive training on the process and etiquette for this event. Additionally, new judges are required to view an hour-long webinar on judging procedures and expectations before the contest. In the past, NHD-OC judges have included professional and amateur historians, educators and NHD coaches, parents, and others passionate about history and helping students. NHD-OC staff members make every effort prior to and during the contest to ensure that judges have no conflicts of interest with schools, students, and/or entries that they might be judging.

 Are there requirements for judges? 

Judges are required to complete trainng prior to the contest and orientation the day of the contest.​

For more information about NHD-OC, please email us at​