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History Day event for middle, high school students returns to campus

Every year, National History Day frames students’ research within a central historical theme. Students choose a topic, then utilize libraries, archives and museums to develop their presentations, and conduct oral history interviews and visit historic sites.

Students from regional middle schools and high schools will take part in an annual National History Day competition at Western Carolina University on Saturday, March 30.

The event, hosted by WCU’s History Department, takes place from noon until 7 p.m. Organized by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Western Office, the competition is based on projects that students create, such as exhibits, performances, documentaries and websites, based on a central theme.

“The History Department is thrilled to host this important event in partnership with the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources,” said Jessie Swigger, director of WCU’s Public History Program. “It’s great to see young people connect with the past and create projects that allow them to develop a wide range of skills that will benefit them now and in the future.”

Presentations often make history come alive, with period costumes and a look back at events from a contemporary perspective.

This year’s theme is “Triumph and Tragedy in History” and students must base their research on it, utilizing the elements of time, place and context, along with cause and effect, change over time, and its impact and significance. Participating students are encouraged to read, discuss and develop ideas about a topic related to the theme.

Jeff Futch, regional supervisor for Natural and Cultural Resources’ Western Office, said students can work alone or in a group, decide what they would like to create, then present and defend their projects in front of judges who ask them questions about their research.

Regional winners will go on to compete in Raleigh for statewide honors and possibly advance to a national competition. The program is designed to promote an interest in history among students and to assist teachers in teaching history more effectively. The program helps students develop skills in historical research, analysis, critical thinking, organization and presentation, as well as improve reading and writing skills. After evaluations and judging at district and state events, top-ranking students are then selected to participate in a national event in June at College Park, Maryland.

National History Day began in 1974 as an academic program to encourage deeper engagement in the study of history. For more information on National History Day events at WCU, contact Swigger at


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