Written by Tiane Davis // Graphic by Wagner Valdez
The Region Eight Arkansas National History Day event is being hosted at Harding for the fourth consecutive year this weekend. Nine schools in the region plan to attend the day-long event, which is happening tomorrow, Feb. 25.
Associate professor of history David Adams, who is the region’s coordinator, said the competition has five different categories: exhibits, documentaries, websites, papers and performances. He said National History Day started in 1974 when a history professor thought history was being neglected in schools.
“It started out sort of as a history answer to the science fair,” Adams said. “So it did start out with the exhibits, which were trifolds and have pictures and captions.”
Adams said each year has a different theme, and the theme for this year is “Trailblazer.” He said the students do their projects with that theme in mind, which can have a broad interpretation.
“I think that this is a really fulfilling experience for everybody that gets involved,” Adams said. “You put a lot into it, but you can see that the kids have a lot of fun.”
Adams said they find volunteers every year — usually Harding students — to help run the competition and judge individual events. He said the judges have a good experience because they love encouraging the students and their interests.
“They just feel great doing it,” Adams said. “We have a reputation for having the kindest reputation in the state because most of our judges are Harding students, and they just really know how to treat people and make them feel welcome.”
Adams said he is glad the competition can be held at Harding because it often encourages the younger generation to consider higher education.
“I kind of feel like the more people that we can bring in, the more schools that we can bring into this…It not only puts Harding out there, but it just puts the idea of higher education out there in general,” Adams said.
Arkansas National History Day affiliate coordinator Angela Adams, David’s spouse, said she was hired as the state coordinator this past year. She said she has worked to put excitement into the program.
“I want to continue expanding the program, especially to rural and lower socioeconomic areas of the state,” Angela said. “I want History Day to become so well-known in our state that Arkansans are cheering on the Arkansas delegation of students going to D.C. to compete in the national competition like they would cheer on the Razorbacks.”
Angela said she created a startup kit program called “Hello History Day” to make it easier for teachers to get their students involved in National History Day if it is their first year doing it. She said she has visited schools all year to help the state numbers grow to over 1,000 participants.
“Since becoming head, I have gotten more excited with the possibilities,” Angela said.
Melanie Barker, a history teacher at Ahlf Junior High School (AJHS) in Searcy, said this is the first year Ahlf has participated in National History Day in about 10 years. She said having the competition at Harding makes it more convenient for parents and students.
“It makes it much more accessible to our students and their parents,” Barker said. “They are able to drive there easier than if it were held somewhere else.”
Barker said she has high hopes for her students this year, and that they have been excited about their projects and for the competition.
“I would love to see Searcy not only have multiple entries each year in the future, but multiple winning entries on the state and even national level,” Barker said. “I have loved seeing the kids become so involved and engaged with their topics. I believe this has helped them appreciate the practice of learning history through investigation much more. It makes history much more real and alive for them.”
Barker said preparing for the competition has not only been fun for her students but for her, as well.
“I am a competitive person in a way — I guess that makes me a nerd — and I want to see AJHS win in almost everything,” Barker said. “I also love the fact that it is so student-driven — their choice, their research and their work is to be rewarded and applauded.”