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Transforming Your Classroom with National History Day

Want your students to love history? National History Day (NHD) in Oklahoma helps connect students to the past by examining primary and secondary sources to develop their own interpretations. Once the research is complete, students can use their skills to create a project in a variety of formats for competition at the district, state, and national level. Along the way, students will refine the skills necessary for success in school and life.

Need help getting started in your classroom? Want to help your students succeed at Oklahoma National History Day (OkNHD)? Register your classroom for access to additional resources or register for a workshop!

Request a Workshop      Reserve the OkNHD Trunk

How Does National History Day Fit Into Your Curriculum?

In today’s educational climate, with so much pressure from outside the classroom, many teachers are wary of adding anything else into their curriculum. National History Day is a program that can be integrated into any social studies or history classroom, helping teachers expand and enrich their existing curriculum. NHD is an outstanding example of outcome-based or performance-based learning. Educators who teach research skills, engage students in higher-order thinking skills and ask students to submit a project for assessment find NHD to be the perfect tool. NHD uses an annual theme to guide student research. This also gives a focus for teaching research and historical content in the classroom. Many teachers incorporate the theme into their everyday teaching, asking students to look for relationships to the theme in each classroom lesson.

National History Day motivates students to discover history by:

  • Cultivating interest: Students research a topic related to the theme and use their creativity to present the material. Each year the theme is broad enough to allow any history course to participate.
  • Developing research skills: Students act as historians discovering how to uncover primary sources, build historical context, and form historical interpretations. Students develop the skills they need for college.
  • Becoming experts on their research topic: Presenting their research for teachers, students, and historians helps students develop twenty-first-century skills and meets Oklahoma standard for social studies.
  • Achieving success
    • Shy students gain confidence when speaking about a topic they researched.
    • Apathetic students gain passion by choosing a topic of personal interest.
    • High-achieving students increase the ability to articulate their learning through presentation.

All students are winners in the National History Day program!

Curriculum Guide Based on Oklahoma Social Studies Standards

Find out how NHD helps meet classroom standards. View the National History Day Curriculum Guide (PDF) based on Oklahoma social studies standards.

History Day Works: National Program Evaluation

The first national evaluation of National History Day finds that students who participate in the program perform better on high-stakes tests, are better writers, more confident and capable researchers, and have a more mature perspective on current events and civic engagement than their peers. Participants also show a greater ability to collaborate with peers, manage their time and persevere—all skills employers say are lacking in today’s workforce.

This research confirms what those of us who work with National History Day students have seen anecdotally for years. This program not only helps students improve academically, it can also change their lives. Students who are “slipping through the cracks” of our education system find their way back and get on track to succeed in school while participating in NHD.
—Cathy Gorn, NHD executive director

Some of the important findings include:

  • NHD students outperform their non-NHD peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but in reading, science, and math as well.
  • NHD students are better writers who write with a purpose and real voice and marshal solid evidence to support their point of view.
  • NHD students are critical thinkers who can digest, analyze, and synthesize information.
  • NHD students learn twenty-first-century skills. They learn how to collaborate with team members, talk to experts, manage their time, and persevere.
  • NHD has a positive impact on students whose interests in academic subjects may wane in high school.

Read the Key Findings (PDF)


Students who participate in National History Day have multiple choices for presenting their research in creative form. Students can compete as individuals or in groups. In addition, students are broken into the junior division (grades 6–8) and senior division (grades 9–12) to help keep the contest competitive. Below are descriptions of each category.

Students may enter one of nine categories:

  • Paper (individual only)
  • Individual Exhibit
  • Group Exhibit
  • Individual Performance
  • Group Performance
  • Individual Documentary
  • Group Documentary
  • Individual Website
  • Group Website

Each category in each division is judged separately. Group entries may include two to five students. Group participants do not have to be in the same grade to compete together, but they must be in the same division. Group entries may compete at the state and national level without all group participants; however, all participants must register even if they will not attend the contest.


To ensure students across the country participate in a fair contest that judges students equally, National History Day sets the rules and guidelines for all participating entries. All judges are familiar with the rules.

National History Day Contest Rule Book (PDF)
National History Day manual de reglas para competencias (PDF)

History Day Contract

Download the Contract (PDF)

Workshops and Institutes

OkNHD Library Day
Join us for our annual OkNHD Library Day at the Oklahoma History Center on Thursday, October 6, 2022. Students will research in the library and attend workshops for help with their projects. OkNHD Library Day is free for teachers, students, and chaperones! Registration opens August 25 and closes September 29.

NHD101 for Students
OkNHD staff will provide an in-class beginning National History Day workshop at your school for no cost. The workshop covers National History Day basics, what to expect at the contest, the annual theme, topic selection, and general category information. This program is 30–45 minutes.

NHD101 for Teachers
OkNHD staff will provide an on-campus National History Day workshop at your school for no cost. The workshop covers National History Day basics, what to expect at the contest, the annual theme, topic selection, and general category information.

NHD201 for Students
OkNHD staff will provide an in-class National History Day workshop focusing on topic selection and research or detailed category information. This program is 30–45 minutes.

Category-specific Workshops for Teachers
OkNHD staff will provide an in-depth look at each of the categories with tips and tricks for papers, websites, documentaries, exhibits, and performances, and how to teach them to your students. This program is 45–60 minutes.

Category-specific Workshops for Students
OkNHD staff will provide an in-depth look at each of the categories with tips and tricks for papers, websites, documentaries, exhibits, and performances. This program is 45–60 minutes.

Request a Workshop

More Resources and Information

For more information or resources, please visit our OkNHD Resources page.

If you have additional questions or would like to speak to Oklahoma teachers currently using NHD in the classroom, please contact the OkNHD staff at oklahomanhd@gmail.com.