USM hosts Mississippi National History Day contest

USM hosts Mississippi National History Day contest

The University of Southern Mississippi hosted Mississippi’s National History Day contest, March 5.

National History Day, a nationwide competition for middle and high school students interested in history, encourages students to develop original and creative historical research focused on an annual theme.

For the event, the USM Department of History helped contestants prepare for the national competition in College Park, Maryland, where they have the opportunity to win scholarships and other awards.

Every year, National History Day frames student research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. The 2016 theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.

Mississippi has been ranked in the top 10 the past five years at Nationals.

Participants create projects in one of five categories: video documentary, exhibit, paper, performance and website design.

Middle schools represented in Hattiesburg this weekend included Armstrong Middle School, Sacred Heart Catholic School, Colmer Middle School, Tupelo Middle School and Trent Lott Academy.

Participating high schools included Cleveland High School, Pass Christian High School, Mississippi High School of Mathematics and Science and Pascagoula High School.

Olivia Viguerie, eighth grader at Oak Grove Middle School, described her entry for this year’s competition which is individual performance.

“I’m doing something on the Japanese War Rides that were brought home by the United States servicemen in the 1950s,” Viguerie said. “My idea was inspired by an old rerun of this show from the ‘80s.”

Viguerie competed in the NHD events for the first time this year.

“Ever since I came into middle school, history has sparked my interest,” she said. “The teachers at Oak Grove really encouraged me to get involved in this year’s competition.”

Viguerie said the research and preparation for this event helped her learn a lot about history and culture.

Judges team into groups of three in order to have a wide range of perspectives to analyze and critique each individual.

“Alongside historical accuracy, I’m looking for creativity,” said Sean Buckelew, junior and senior performance judge. “I believe the biggest thing is finding a way to put history into an interesting context.”

Buckelew said good performance skills are important in this competition.

“It’s very difficult for middle and high schoolers to really put themselves out there, so I am looking for students who have the [ability] to just go for it,” Buckelew said.

NHD is a learning adventure that teaches critical thinking, writing and research skills and boosts performance across all subjects – not just history. It provides a framework and curriculum materials for teachers and the guidance needed for students to make this possible.

According to, students do not have to be academically gifted to participate and succeed. NHD reaches and motivates disadvantaged and special needs children nationwide.

“This event allows students to get a leg-up in learning,” said Allison Abra, British historian at USM and NHD co-coordinator. “This experience helps improve their writing, thinking and speaking skills and challenges them as learners and future educators.”

This year’s national event will be held at the University of Maryland on June 12-16, where nearly 3,000 students, parents and teachers are expected to be in attendance.