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Students Bring History to Life in Competition

America’s past and future will converge this week as students from around the nation arrive in Washington to defend their entries in the annual National History Day competition.

Created by a Case Western Reserve University professor in 1974, the contest has since expanded into a national undertaking that challenges students to submit research papers, documentaries, exhibit boards, performances or Web sites that explore a specific facet of U.S. history. This year’s theme is “The Individual in History.—

Hailing from all 50 states, U.S. territories and Department of Defense schools in Europe, 2,400 finalists have traveled to College Park, Md., for a chance to have their work put on display in the National Archives.

“It’s a fabulous way to engage kids in learning history and all kinds of critical learning skills,— said Missy McNatt, the program’s Washington, D.C., coordinator.

The students are split into a two age groups, each of which is subdivided based on project formats. Judges will winnow the contestants down to two from each of these categories before choosing three finalists in each age group.

McNatt said the 200th anniversary of the births of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin has lent this year’s theme additional significance, noting how both are examples of highly scrutinized figures that historians must delve into deeply to understand.

The students “look at the actions and that’s a little bit easier, but they also have to examine the person’s legacy,— McNatt said. “It’s not just a biography.—

Winning exhibits, which are required to draw on at least one record from the National Archives, will be on display in the Boeing Learning Center of the National Archives.

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