Last month members of the History Department and the Center for Archival Collections orchestrated Ohio History Day. Since 1974 the Ohio History Connection has hosted this competition among junior high and high school students in affiliation with Nation History Day. According to their website, Ohio History Day is “…an exciting program that makes history come alive for students. Students learn history by doing history. Students conduct historical research that leads to imaginative exhibits, documentaries, original performances, websites and scholarly papers” (you can read more about this competition and the Ohio History Connection at this link).
A lot of preparation goes into Ohio History Day when it is hosted at BGSU. Libby Hertenstein, rare books and metadata librarian at the Center for Archival Collections was one of many that helped to organize this annual competition. This was her second year. “The most challenging part was amount of people involved,” said Hertenstein. “We had over 260 students register [for history day]! That’s a lot of people to plan and be prepared for.” Not only did the preparation include over 200 students, but it also included organizing volunteers to judge these projects. History professionals and enthusiasts all gave their time to evaluate projects and pass students onward to the next round. Two of these judges were Dr. Rebecca Mancuso, a professor in the BGSU history department and Kaysie Harrington, a current history Graduate student.
For Dr. Mancuso, this was her first year as judge. “Throughout my own education, I never thought much about doing history competitively!” stated Mancuso. “I think the competitive element makes the event exciting and encourages students to do their best. There are competitions urging students to excel in sports, business and even art, so why not history?” Kaysie Harrington had been a judge in years previous, first hearing of the competition through fellow history student, Lizzy Hile. When asked about her favorite part of History day, Harrington said that she enjoyed seeing students becoming as excited about history as she is. “I also love that it brings together so many different levels and types of historians” stated Harrington. Dr. Mancuso judged the exhibits and websites, as well as offering to be a runoff judge for the second round. “The websites were quite impressive” when asked about her favorite project. “I honestly can’t pick a favorite.” stated Harrington who had judged a research paper, a documentary and several websites. “Both times I’ve judged I’ve been impressed with the quality of research conducted by many of the students, and the enthusiasm they have for their topics is just contagious.”
For these women involved, they all commented on how rewarding the experience was. “The kids work really hard all year and it’s wonderful to see how much they’ve learned” said Libby Hertenstein. “You won’t regret it,” said Kaysie Harrington when commenting on her experience as a judge. “It’s a wonderful day to spend a Saturday. It’s a chance for you, as a judge, to learn as well as the students.” For students interested in participating in history day, the judges had advice to give. Kaysie Harrington encourages students to “Pick a topic that will hold your interest. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to ask challenging research questions.” Dr. Mancuso suggested that students explore the world of sources. “The more you read, the more you know. I firmly believe that reading history books and researching has enriched my own life beyond measure.”