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Students Learn History, Research Skills in History Day Competition

PELLA, Iowa- Across Iowa some 8,000 students are signed up to participate in History Day. The state is divided into 12 regional competitions for some to advance to the state History Day on April 30th, in Des Moines.

The students pick a topic on U.S. or Iowa History, and then spend time researching that topic over the school year. At the History Day competition they may present their research as a paper, a website, a table top display, or as a drama.

“Iowans are very passionate about their history, and we look for opportunities to share that research that we’ve created,” said Vania Boland, Iowa History Day Coordinator. “These kids are passionate about finding topics they are interested in.”

The history education program has been going for Iowa’s 6-12th grade students since the early 1990’s.

"I really like doing the research about it and then turning it into something like a project, like what we did,” said 6th grader Ashton Huizer of Pella. She did research on Prohibition.

Other table top displays looked at the Honey War between Iowa and Missouri, and some conflict around Iowa’s switch from 6 on 6 girls basketball to 5 on 5.

My presentation is about Anna Smith Strong, female spy during the American Revolution,” said Sarah Rundall, of Ames High School. “Basically her whole story was that she would hang up a black petticoat and some handkerchiefs on her laundry line to signal other spies in the area about the drops and things along that line.”

For 13 years Central College in Pella has hosted this regional competition. It is coordinated by Associate History Professor, Lori Witt.

“To hear these young students so interested in history makes me very anxious for them to get to college,” said Witt. “They learn research skills, they learn critical thinking, and how to present themselves in public.”

Winners from the Iowa History Day will go to the National History Day Competition in Maryland.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs could still use help judging the National History Day competition on April 30th.

Check here if you might be interested in helping.