Education & Outreach

What is National History Day?

Overview Contest Results

National History Day (NHD) is an exciting academic enrichment program that helps students discover historical issues, ideas, people, and events. This year-long academic adventure fosters students' enthusiasm for learning and their love for history.

NHD teaches the skills all individuals need for a successful future. The program’s central elements develop participants' ability to: (1) complete extensive research; (2) critically analyze and develop historical conclusions about information they have discovered in a variety of sources; and (3) present and defend their interpretations in a critical, yet creative, forum.

Why Get Involved with National History Day?

National History Day makes learning fun! One Iowa History Day parent commented, "The organizational, research, and social skills used (in History Day) are unparalleled in any other school program we've been involved with."

National History Day students use primary, secondary, community and statewide resources on a subject of their choice related to the annual theme. The 2015 theme is "Leadership and Legacy in History."

Working individually or collaboratively in groups of 2 to 5, students produce documentaries, exhibits, performances, papers, or web sites. Students in grades 6 through 12 may choose to participate in the national event cycle by presenting their research at a competitive series of local, district, state, and national events. Students in grades 4 and 5 may participate in a non-competitive Youth Division.

National History Day encourages students to develop relationships with individuals, organizations, and agencies in their communities and state in the process of their research. The program also promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and students' love for learning by making history come alive. The program begins in September, at the start of the school year. Curriculum materials are available to through the state NHD office. Contact for more information.

Why National History Day?

National History Day gives participants the skills all individuals need for a successful future. The program is a unique academic enrichment opportunity because of the variety of skills it teaches: critical and creative thinking, research and analysis, verbal and written communication skills, time management and self-initiative, commitment to a long-term project, problem-solving, self esteem, and much more.

National History Day meets national standards in history, language arts, and other disciplines and can help you meet national education standards.

NHD experience is particularly useful for students going to college. Past National History Day participants frequently report that their experiences helped them secure scholarships and prepared them for college-level work and expectations. Some scholarships are available through the NHD contest.

Benefits for Students

The program promotes a number of skills that students need for a successful future. National History Day:

  • Builds research, comprehension, critical thinking, and presentation skills.
  • Integrates the arts, social sciences, and other disciplines into an historical presentation.
  • Fosters pride in and understanding of local, state, national, and world heritage.
  • Develops creativity.
  • Improves self-esteem.
  • Promotes a positive experience with history and learning.

Benefits for Teachers

The National History Day program provides teachers an innovative teaching tool that instills important skills in a fun and engaging format. NHD requires students to do the job of a historical detective. Participants must delve into primary sources, develop original historical conclusions, and present their work in a creative forum. In short, National History Day is designed to revolutionize the teaching and learning of history.

NHD also promotes continuing education opportunities for teachers. Introductory and training workshops are offered by both the state and the national staff, as well as several district History Day programs.

Objectives of National History Day

  • To provide history teachers with an innovative teaching tool.
  • To assist teachers and schools in meeting educational standards which require outcome-based learning activities.
  • To encourage the study of history by teaching students to express themselves creatively through presentations of historical topics and materials in a variety of formats.
  • To interest students in learning about history by integrating the materials and methods of social studies, art, literature, language, technology, and music into their entries.
  • To develop research and reading skills and to refine presentation skills in writing, visual projects, and performances.
  • To develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help students manage and use information effectively now and in the future.
  • To encourage students to develop a sense of history as a process and change, a multifaceted development over time that affects every aspect of human life and society.
  • To get students out of the school building and into the community, investigating local history.
  • To involve parents and other members of the community in students' education.
  • To expose students to new and exciting educational environments by holding workshops and contests on college campuses and at historical societies.
  • To help create better educated citizens.
  • To prepare the next generation of Iowa scholars and employees.
  • To aid teachers, parents, and schools in their efforts to provide educational opportunities for their children.
  • To excite and educate the public about their rich heritage.

How Does the Program Work in Iowa?

The National History Day in Iowa program has been coordinated by the State Historical Society of Iowa since 1994. Major funding comes from the State Historical Society, Inc. of Iowa City, the Obermann-Beck Foundation, and the American Legion of Iowa Foundation. The NHD in Iowa staff may be reached at:

National History Day in Iowa
State Historical Society of Iowa
600 E. Locust
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Phone: 515-725-0506
Fax: 515-282-0502

For program related updates throughout the year, join the NHD in Iowa listserv by sending a blank e-mail to

Who May Participate?

National History Day encourages all students to participate. Students in grades 6-12 may choose to participate in the national contest cycle. Participants in grades 6-8 enter the Junior Division; students in grades 9-12 compete in the Senior Division. The learning principles of NHD are applicable to students of all ages. Students in grades 4-5 may participate in a non-competitive Youth Division. All students (rural, suburban, urban; public, private, parochial, home school) are invited to participate. NHD does not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, physical abilities, economic status, or sexual orientation. Contest Rule Books are available in Braille and Spanish from the national office. Students with special needs may contact their district or state coordinator for any necessary accommodations.

National History Day Website

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