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National History Day Announces 2013 Theme: Turning Points in History

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Over the next few weeks, more than 500,000 students throughout the nation will be looking through their history texts and other sources uncovering turning points in history to prepare for National History Day. This intensive research program and contest promotes the study of history by asking students to research history as professionals. Students review the annual theme, select a topic for research, and delve into research using primary and secondary sources. By Spring, students will have created exhibits, documentaries, live performances, web sites, and research papers for competition.

As the sponsor for all Louisiana participants and a source for students nationwide working on World War II projects, the Museum puts out a list of sample topics that lend themselves to study by student researchers. Some of the topics are obvious. The Battle of Midway is referred to in the Museum as “the turning point of the War in the Pacific.” D-Day is an obvious turning point in the European Theater, while the Battle of Stalingrad is used to mark the turning point on the Eastern Front.

These battles have all been written about extensively, and reading the many scholarly works available are of great benefit to students. Over the years, many students have chosen to highlight lesser-known topics or narrow their focus to individual actions that played major roles in larger events. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s landing on the wrong sector of Utah Beach exclaiming, “We’ll start the war from here.” is one example of individual initiative in the context of a larger event.

Lesser-known World War II topics have the potential for students to discover material that is not in their textbook or well-known by the teacher. This allows the student to become the expert while discussing it with classmates, teachers, and judges. The development and mass production of synthetic rubber during the War is one example of a student being able to research a topic that would otherwise not be covered in class.

If you were a student today, what other topics in World War II history and history in general do you think lend themselves to the theme, Turning Points in History?

Find out more about National History Day and The National WWII Museum and sign up for our monthly Calling All Teachers eNewsletter

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen

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