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Archive for the ‘National History Day’ Category

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2017 National History Day Theme – “Taking A Stand In History”

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Taking A Stand In HistoryNational History Day is a yearlong historical research contest for middle and high school students. Each year, students from across the country develop a project based on the annual contest theme. The annual theme for the 2017 National History Day contest is “Taking a Stand in History,” a topic that offers many opportunities for students to research and explore powerful subjects and events in WWII history.

While images and figures from the American women’s suffrage and Civil Rights movements are likely the first thoughts that spring to mind when most read and hear the words “Taking a Stand,” individuals and groups making history by taking a risk and by taking a stand existed during World War II as well:  fighting against oppression, tyranny and discrimination both on the battlefield and off. While not all of the individuals or groups taking a stand in World War II ultimately succeeded in their goals, the outcomes and the lessons drawn from each of them are what determine why these events are important in history.

Examples from battlefields abound in WWII history, from the dogged defense of Wake Island in the Pacific by a few hundred sailors, Marines, and civilians against a relentless and overwhelming Japanese assault to the siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, in which outnumbered American soldiers held out against a furious German attack before finally being relieved. Despite the two battles’ opposite outcomes – the defense of Wake Island ending in American defeat while the Battle of the Bulge resulted in Allied victory – both events still offer many examples of individuals and groups bravely taking a stand and making history in the process.

Wake Island

Image courtesy of The National Archives

 

Just as plentiful are accounts and incidents of individuals and groups taking a stand on the WWII Home Front.  Labor activist A. Philip Randolph organized and planned a 50,000-man march on Washington, DC, in 1941 to protest racial discrimination against African Americans and to demand the outlaw of Jim Crow practices and policies in American war industry jobs. Randolph’s march never took place, but his taking a stand caused President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 prohibiting racial discrimination by any employer serving under a federal contract and opening the door for further directives to increase opportunities for black enlistment in the armed forces following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those individuals and groups who took a legal stand against Executive Order 9066 – the unconstitutional 1942 Order calling for the forcible evacuation and involuntary incarceration of over 100,000 individuals of Japanese American descent from the American West Coast – offer powerful examples of peaceful protest and eventual exoneration, such as the case of Mitsuye Endo in the 1944 Supreme Court decision in Ex parte Endo.

Mitsuye Endo

Image courtesy of Densho

 

Finally, for some individuals and groups caught within the carnage and danger of World War II, survival itself became a form of resistance and a means to take a stand. Following the American surrender in the aftermath of the Battle of Corregidor in the Philippines, 11 US Navy nurses, 66 Army nurses, and one nurse-anesthetist found themselves captured by the Japanese alongside the male survivors of the battle and subsequent siege and assault. This isolated cohort of American women continued to serve in whatever capacity they could during their three-year imprisonment at the Santo Tomas and Los Banos internment camps, saving countless lives under the worst of conditions. They came to be known as the Angels of Bataan or Battling Belles of Bataan. On the other side of the world, Romanian teenager and future Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel saw and suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. These experiences, including the deaths of his sister, mother, and father, were documented by Wiesel in his seminal autobiographical work, Night, which, since its first publication, has been translated into over 30 languages and is regularly read by millions of students each year.

Night

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

 

World War II is a rich and exciting time period in which to study examples of courage, resistance, and dissent in the war that changed the world  – both on the battlefront and on the Home Front – as well as what these individuals and groups continue to teach us about history today.

For more details about the National History Day contest and how to start your WWII research project, please visit The National WWII Museum’s NHD web page as well the Museum’s Digital Collection for access to thousands of WWII primary-source images and hundreds of oral histories.

Also, for any Louisiana teachers and professors, historians, undergraduate and graduate students, museum professionals, or anyone with a love of history and community, we need your help to judge this year’s regional and state National History Day contests!  No prior experience necessary besides enthusiasm and interest in evaluating student work. Please view our National History Day Judges Form to learn more

 

Post by Collin Makamson, student programs coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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Beaches and Battleships: A V-J Day Guest Blog

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Image Courtesy of Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

Image courtesy of Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, “Photo Number 98-2437,” Photographer Unknown.

To commemorate Victory Over Japan Day 2016, Jay Mehta of Overland Park, Kansas, a 10th  grader at the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri, composed this guest blog detailing his experiences after traveling to The National WWII Museum in December 2015 and hearing the oral history of Lieutenant Commander James Starnes, who was officer of the deck aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, when the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed to officially bring WWII to a close. Jay later continued on his journey, traveling with family to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to visit “The Mighty Mo” herself.

“Beaches and Battleships,” by Jay Mehta

History shapes our lives. This saying often refers to the decisions and battles of times past that are still affecting the world today. However, over the course of the past year I have come to understand another facet of this saying: that understanding history not only informs our decisions, but also inspires us to experience new things.

Last summer, at the National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland, I was one of 51 students (representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia) to receive the Salute to Courage Award from The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. In December, we each represented our state at the opening of the Museum’s new Richard C. Adkerson & Freeport McMoRan Foundation Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries. As a part of the award, each of us was privileged to study the life of one veteran or servicemember from our home state. When I received the name James Starnes and began watching his oral history, I was immediately befuddled. I represented the state of Missouri. James Starnes was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia. It was not until the end of his fascinating chronicle that I understood why a student from Missouri had been chosen to study him: James Starnes was the officer of the deck and navigator of the USS Missouri, the ship on which the Japanese formally surrendered to the Allied forces, thereby ending World War II.

The research drew me in rapidly. I began to watch footage of the historic event to try to spot a young Starnes or some aspect of the scene he described in his oral history. I also emailed the archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, to see if the museum had any artifacts relating to the surrender, which happened during Missouri native Harry S. Truman’s presidency. Most interesting, however, were the facts I uncovered about the USS Missouri itself.

I began to wonder why the USS Missouri had been chosen for the surrender. This was soon answered when I discovered that it was Margaret Truman—the daughter of the then junior senator from Missouri—who had actually christened the battleship by smashing the ceremonial bottle of bubbly on its hull. According to Starnes, on that day Truman promised his daughter that “the ‘Mighty Mo’ will steam into Tokyo Harbor someday, with guns a-blazing, and the war will be over.” It made perfect sense, then, that four years later, when he was president and was choosing a location to mark the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, he chose the ship named for his home state and christened by his only child.

I also began to listen to Mr. Starnes’s words more carefully. He mentioned that as officer of the deck his duty was to give the Japanese delegation the official permission to board the ship. He spoke of positioning eight men, each over six feet tall, at the Japanese entry point to project an aura of dominance.

He spoke of the infamous wartime incident aboard the Missouri when a young Japanese kamikaze pilot, en route to collide with the ship, was shot down. His plane left a dent on the side of the ship, but there were no American casualties. However, recognizing their shared roles as pawns in a larger, international game, the crew of the USS Missouri decided to honor the pilot with a navy funeral. Realizing they had no Japanese flags on hand, the crew stayed up all night sewing a red sun.

I read about how General Douglas MacArthur dropped a pen nib cover during the Instrument of Surrender signing ceremony—which took place on what would from that day forward be known as the Surrender Deck—but  was not willing to bend down and pick it up, as it would seem like bowing to the enemy.

These stories filled my mind while writing my oral-history project. After it was submitted, and only a week before the Road to Tokyo grand opening, I received an email from the Museum that I had been selected as the student speaker for the VIP gala the night before the grand opening. Writing that speech in the next few days allowed me a chance to reflect on what I had learned throughout the process. However, what best gave me a sense of the importance of studying and exploring history was the experience of actually delivering the speech in front of more than 600 people. I was floored to see the knowing looks on the faces of veterans throughout the audience as I spoke naively of battleships and campaigns. I was warmed to see their smiles as I read a poem that was included in the oral history I had researched. I was especially surprised when, after leaving the stage and heaving a sigh of relief, I ran into a gentleman who turned out to be the chief historian at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (a National Park at Pearl Harbor). The next morning, I carried the Missouri state flag into the grand opening along with my fellow students with a new sense of its historical weight. On the flight home, I discussed with my mother how incredible it would be to actually see the USS Missouri at its resting place in Pearl Harbor someday. My experience at the Museum was over, but my journey aboard the USS Missouri had only just begun.

Fast-forward a month or two. My family was planning a spring break trip to Maui, Hawaii, and my parents told me we were planning a day trip to Pearl Harbor to see the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona. I was ecstatic. On top of being a WWII nerd, I could not wait to stand aboard the ship I had spent months researching. Finally, March arrived, and my family and I flew west toward beaches and battleships.

When we arrived at the Missouri, I was immediately struck by its size and majesty. Even by today’s standards, the Iowa-class battleship—the last of its kind—is considered a leviathan. I began to recognize many historical odds and ends I had encountered in my research. After a guided tour, I began to explore on my own. I went to the navigation room in the high decks of the ship and sat in what would have been James Starnes’s seat. I found the Japanese entry point where the tall men had stood (marked by two poles which stand closer together than the rest). I saw the dent made by the kamikaze pilot (which, after countless paint jobs and modernizations, still has not been removed). I even saw the place where General MacArthur signed the Instrument of Surrender and where the pen nib cover was later found. However, the most incredible moment aboard the Missouri for me was standing on the highest deck open for tourists, where one can see the USS Arizona Memorial, which I would visit in the coming hours. The green outline of the sunken Arizona can be seen directly off the bow of the Missouri. Some nearby guide was telling a tourist that the ships, one above and one below water, were positioned in this way so that the Missouri could watch over the fallen servicemembers still on board the USS Arizona.

This visual summed up my entire experience learning about the war in the Pacific. In one body of water off the coast of Hawaii, in one day, a person can visit a ship that witnessed the beginning of World War II in the Pacific theater and the ship that witnessed its end. To have stood atop both of those ships and to have captured a glimpse of war and its consequences continues to inform my decisions today. My oral-history project and my trip to The National WWII Museum served as the impetus for visiting Pearl Harbor. However, my experience at Pearl Harbor was also, in turn, deeply enriched by my oral-history project and my trip to the Museum.

When I left Pearl Harbor, I remember scribbling down a note to myself. While writing this blog entry, I found it and pulled it out. To me, it sums up how I felt immediately after leaving the park and what thoughts were rushing through my mind about the war in the Pacific. The note reads as follows: “The fire of World War II was ignited by blood and smothered by a signature.”

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Louisiana History Day National Finalists Selected

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Louisiana State National History Day ContestThis past Saturday, April 9, over 200 middle and high school students from across Louisiana visited The National WWII Museum to compete and take part in the annual Louisiana National History Day State Contest.  National History Day is a national student research contest in which students, working as either individuals or in groups, create projects relating to an annual theme which are evaluated and critiqued at school and regional level contests.

Having already advanced from one of five regional contests in Monroe, Baton Rouge, Shreveport or New Orleans, these students and their projects represented the best student work Louisiana had to offer.  Competition was fierce and exciting throughout the day with over 120 projects in 18 different categories seeking an opportunity to advance to the National History Day National Contest in Washington D.C..  The judges deliberated throughout the day and ultimately selected 61 middle and high school students to represent Louisiana at the National Contest the week of June 12 – 16, 2016.

The National WWII Museum is proud to serve as the state sponsor for National History Day in Louisiana and we are expecting great things from this year’s student delegation.  Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students and teachers who participated!   

 

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

 

 

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Getting Around the Museum on History Day

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We hope everyone is excited for this Saturday, April 9 and our Louisiana National History Day State Contest.

Upon arriving at the Museum, you may notice some growing pains as construction of our new “Founder’s Plaza” is taking place. Here’s how to get around during National History Day.

  • Firstly, Andrew Higgins Drive and the Museum main entrance will be closed to all traffic, both motorized and pedestrian, on the day of the contest.  Students, depending on their projects, will enter the Museum and check-in through TWO separate entrances.
    • Through the temporary main entrance on Magazine Street on the corner of Andrew Higgins Drive for those students with DOCUMENTARY, PAPER & WEBSITE projects. This is just steps away from the Soda Shop entrance.
    • Through the Firehouse for those students with EXHIBITS & PERFORMANCE projects. The firehouse is located on Magazine Street just shy of Poeyfarre Street.
  • Secondly, Parking is available at one of four surface parking lots all within one block of the Museum. If you choose to park in a paid lot, make sure to follow directions clearly to avoid ticketing or booting of your car.
    • The Museum parking garage is not yet open or available for parking.
  • Thirdly, Student Check-In will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 9 inside one of the two Museum entrances listed above.  Students needing directions should look for our Victory Corps youth volunteers who will be outside providing directions all along the Magazine Street sidewalks.
    • At Check-In, all students will be given a room & interview time assignment
    • DOCUMENTARY, PAPER & WEBSITE interviews will take place in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
    • PERFORMANCES will be held in the Stage Door Canteen near the American Sector Restaurant
    • EXHIBITS will be set up in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion:  The Boeing Center
    • For those students with PERFORMANCE & DOCUMENTARY projects, please ensure that you can set up and operate all of your props and technology yourself.
    • For those students with PAPER and WEBSITE projects, your projects have been submitted to the judges for pre-viewing
  • Finally, the Awards Ceremony will be held in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and should begin at around 2:00 p.m..  All are welcome to attend.

We look forward to seeing everyone there, and thank you in advance for your patience while getting around. It’s going to be a great day at the Museum!

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Greater New Orleans National History Day Regional Contest 2016 Results

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Winning Students and Supporters from Helen Cox High School Spelling Out the School's H.C. Initials

Winning Students and Supporters from Helen Cox High School Spelling Out the School’s H.C. Initials

This past Saturday, March 19, The National WWII Museum hosted its Greater New Orleans National History Day regional contest.  National History Day is a student research competition in which students, either as individuals or in groups, conduct research and construct a project on a historical topic of their choice.  Projects in this year’s contest focused on the theme of “Exploration, Encounter & Exchange in History” with student-selected topics ranging from the disappearance of the Roanoke colony to the origins of cheerleading!

At this year’s regional contest, over 240 middle and high school students with over 130 projects in 18 different categories competed throughout the day for a chance to advance their work to the Louisiana State History Day contest which will be held at the Museum on Saturday, April 9 and will feature winning students across the state from the Lafayette, Monroe, Shreveport and Baton Rouge regional contests as well.  The winners from the Louisiana State History Day competition will then travel on to represent the state of Louisiana at the National Contest in Washington D.C..

For these students, the regional contest was the result of many months of researching, writing and perfecting their work. Judging panels evaluated student projects in five different formats—exhibit, research paper, performance, documentary and website – with students placing in the top four of each category advancing to the State Contest.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students who participated!

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

 

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Help Judge National History Day

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National History Day JudgingThe National WWII Museum is looking for teachers and professors, historians, undergraduates and graduate students, museum professionals or anyone with a love of history and community to help judge this year’s National History Day contests!

National History Day is a year-long historical research contest for middle and high school students. Each year, students from across Louisiana create documentaries, research papers, performances, websites or exhibits based upon the annual contest theme. A major benefit to students participating in National History Day besides the fun and excitement of creating an original work is the outside review of that work by volunteer judges, who donate their time to review students’ projects, make suggestions for improvement and determine the entries that will advance to the next round of competition.

Judging is an integral part of the National History Day process. The feedback that students receive is critical to their growth as young researchers. Most of the students will not pursue history as their college major or career choice, however, the skills that the students hone in creating their National History Day projects will apply to any college or career path that they choose. The National WWII Museum is always looking for volunteers who possess both foundational knowledge of history and great communication skills to serve as judges. No prior experience is necessary besides an enthusiasm and interest in encouraging middle and high school students in their research and work!

Judges are needed for Regional Contests in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport and Monroe as well as the State Contest in New Orleans which determines which students go on to represent Louisiana at the national competition in Washington D.C.. The dates for all Regional as well as the State Contest can be found below along with the sign-up form to serve as a National History Day judge.

2016 Louisiana History Day Contest Dates:

Baton Rouge: March 19, 2016

Lafayette: March 12, 2016

Monroe: March 12, 2016

New Orleans: March 19, 2016

Shreveport: March 12, 2016

Louisiana State History Day: April 9, 2016

The National History Day program is exciting and fun, however, the benefits for participation for students working with primary sources and performing original research are very real and can earn them rewards both inside and outside the classroom such as scholarship moneys, special prizes and even paid educational travel.  That said, none of this would be possible without the generous help and support of our volunteer contest judges.

Sign up now to judge National History Day!

Find out more about Louisiana’s National History Day program.

 

For other questions on how to get involved with National History Day, contact the Museum’s Student Program’ Coordinator, Collin Makamson @ 504-528-1944 ext. 304 or historyday@nationalww2museum.org.

 

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2016 National History Day Theme – “Exploration, Encounter & Exchange”

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Exploration Encounter & ExchangeNational History Day is a year-long historical research contest for middle and high school students. Each year, students from across the country develop a project based upon the annual contest theme. The annual theme for the 2016 National History Day contest is “Exploration, Encounter & Exchange;” a topic which also offers many opportunities for students to research and explore powerful subjects and events in WWII history.

While images and figures from the Spanish Conquests or the Age of Sail are likely the first thoughts that spring to mind when most read and hear the words ‘Exploration,’ explorers existed in WWII as well, charting new paths in fields such as medicine, technology, and production while experiencing encounters and exchanges that would help change national attitudes towards isolationism, military preparedness and racial and gender equality. The outcomes of these WWII explorations varied, as did their encounters with opposition or resistance as well as the exchange of ideas or strategies that helped them to succeed or which caused them to fail, however, the outcomes and the lessons drawn from each of them are what determine why these events are important in history.

For example, one case of Exploration between 1941–1945 with lasting importance in history was the exploration of infection and disease in attempts to cure and combat them. One staggering statistic to come out of the Pacific Theatre in WWII: over 80% of American troops deployed to the Pacific were hospitalized at least once, with infection and disease being among the leading causes. The United States responded to this harsh battle environment by exploring revolutionary treatment ideas such as the mass production of penicillin, sulfa drugs and the first use of blood plasma on the battlefield as seen in the image from the Museum’s Digital Collection.

 

Similarly, military tactics in WWII had to change as a result of Encounters with new technology or Encounters with success or setbacks on the battlefield. With German U-Boats menacing Allied shipping lanes during The Battle of the Atlantic, new tactics such as the convoy system, as seen in the image below, and technology like sonar helped to turn the tide. Similar adaptations existed on the Axis side as well, with Germany’s horrific encounters with trench warfare of WWI leading to new strategies such as the Blitzkrieg or ‘Lightning War’ which overran nearly all of Europe by the end of 1940.

 

Finally, exchanges occurred throughout WWII history as well, from the large scale, such as the meeting of The Big Three Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin – at the week-long Yalta Conference which determined the end of WWII and the shape of the post-war world, to the individual, such as African-American serviceman Vernon Baker’s exchange with an prejudiced Army recruiter who at first refused his entry into the United States military based upon his race yet who later was awarded the Medal Of Honor, the highest award given by the United States Government for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

 

World War II is a rich and exciting time period in which to study the exploration, encounters and exchanges of The War That Changed The World  – both famous and infamous – as well as what these events continue to teach us about history today.

For more details about the National History Day contest and how to start your WWII research project, please visit The National WWII Museum’s NHD web page. 

Also, for any Louisiana teachers and professors, historians, undergraduate and graduate students, museum professionals, or anyone with a love of history and community, we need your help to judge this year’s regional and state National History Day contests!  No prior experience necessary besides enthusiasm and interest in evaluating student work.  Please view our National History Day Judges Form to learn more

 

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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Louisiana History Day Finalists Advance To Nationals

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Louisiana History Day State FinalistsOn Saturday, April 11, the Museum hosted the Louisiana National History Day state contest.  National History Day is a student research competition in which students, either as individuals or in groups, conduct research and construct a project on a historical topic of their choice.  Many of the students selected their topics in the fall and then spent much of the spring conducting research online, in libraries and at historical sites and archives. With the option to create either an exhibit, a documentary, a performance, a website or a documentary, students could display their research in the way they deemed most effective.

At this year’s state contest, over 260 middle and high school students with over 150 projects in 18 different categories from all across the state competed throughout the day for prizes as well as a chance to advance their work and represent Louisiana at the National Contest in June in Washington D.C..

In all, 67 winning students were selected on Saturday and will travel on as Louisiana’s representatives in the National Contest at the University of Maryland on June 15 – 18.  Best of luck to all our winners!

 

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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Results from the 2015 New Orleans Regional History Day Contest

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History DayThis past Saturday, March 21, the Museum hosted the Greater New Orleans National History Day regional contest.  National History Day is a student research competition in which students, either as individuals or in groups, conduct research and construct a project on a historical topic of their choice.  Projects in this year’s contest focused on the theme of “Leadership & Legacy in History” with student-selected topics ranging from General George Patton to Beyonce!

At this year’s regional contest, over 230 middle and high school students with over 130 projects in 18 different categories competed throughout the day for a chance to advance their work to the Louisiana State History Day contest which will be held at the Museum on Saturday, April 11; the winners from that competition will then travel on to represent the state of Louisiana at the National Contest in Washington D.C..

For these students, the regional contest was the result of many months of researching, writing and perfecting their work. Judging panels evaluated student projects in five different formats—exhibit, research paper, performance, documentary and website – with students placing in the top four of each category advancing to the State Contest.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all the students who participated!

This post by Collin Makamson, Student Programs Coordinator @ The National WWII Museum

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Sign Up to Judge National History Day

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National History DayNational History Day is a year-long historical research contest for middle and high school students. Each year, students from across Louisiana create documentaries, research papers, performances, websites or exhibits based upon the annual contest theme. A major benefit to students participating in National History Day is the outside reviews of their work by volunteer judges, who donate their time to review students’ work, make suggestions for improvement and determine the entries that will advance to the next round.

The National WWII Museum is looking for judges who possess both foundational knowledge of history and great communication skills, but who, above all else, enjoy working and encouraging middle and high school students.

Judges are needed for the Regional and State Contests in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport and Monroe. The New Orleans Regional Contest is set for Saturday, March 21 at The National WWII Museum. Judges arrive at 8:30 am for a brief orientation and are welcome to stay through the Awards Ceremony ending by 2:30 pm. The State Contest is scheduled for Saturday, April 11 in New Orleans also at The National WWII Museum. Judges at the State Contest will determine Louisiana’s delegation for the National Contest in Washington D.C.

Find out more about Louisiana’s History Day program and other Regional Contest Dates and how to sign up to be a judge!

Don’t live in Louisiana? There is a National History Day program in all fifty states. You can find the contact information for your state’s program at the National History Day website. Also, if you are planning on being in the Washington, D.C. area in June, you can also inquire about judging at the National Contest.

For more information on National History Day, contact the Museum’s Student Program’ Coordinator, Collin Makamson at 504-528-1944 ext. 304 or historyday@nationalww2museum.org.

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