Why Judge History Day?

By Shoshanna Gross, Ohio History Day Coordinator

Each year over 8,000 students from Ohio participate in an intensive research program called Ohio History Day. This program is an opportunity for students in grades 6 – 12 to dig deep into a historical topic of their own choosing and develop a project that shows off what they’ve learned. The program culminates in a series of contests in March and April. As the new state coordinator for Ohio History Day, I’ve spent the last six months becoming acquainted with the program and the wonderful teachers across the state that choose to administer History Day in their classrooms. Now, as we get close to contest season, I’m really excited to see the students’ projects! To get a better sense of what it’s like to judge during an Ohio History Day contest I asked my colleague, Betsy Hedler to talk a little bit about her experience. Here’s what she had to say:

Six students sit in a line in front of three exhibit boards in a school cafeteria.
Students wait to speak to judges about their exhibits, District 7, 2015

“Judging for Ohio History Day is a great experience! I learn so much history from the projects and from talking to the students. The topics that students come up with and the ways they relate them to the theme will surprise and amaze you. I’ve judged exhibits, documentaries, websites, and papers in the years I’ve been involved in Ohio History Day; someday, I hope to be able to judge performances. Personally, I prefer websites and papers because there’s a chance to read the project beforehand, and on the contest day you can focus on interacting with the students and hearing about what they were thinking when they chose that topic. I have colleagues who prefer exhibits and documentaries because that’s what they do in their jobs, so they can really relate to the struggles of creating an informational video or exhibit. “

Ohio History Day relies on hundreds of people across the state to donate a Saturday morning to these students. We don’t expect you to be a historian, and in fact we find that it’s best to have a range of talents on our judge teams. We do however, expect you to be surprised and excited by what the students come up with. Here’s Betsy again:

“Spending the morning talking to these young historians will give you renewed faith in the next generation and their interest in history. These students are doing really impressive research on intriguing topics. Their passion for their research is exciting and encouraging to experience. It’s always inspiring and invigorating to see what the kids come up with!”

If you’d like to learn more about judging for Ohio History Day, please be in touch! Register to judge or contact Shoshanna Gross, sgross@ohiohistory.org or (614) 297-2526.

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