National History Day LOGOCalling All Middle and High School Students!

Welcome to the new school year! Before you get too far along with classes and after-school activities, you will want to start thinking about what you want to do for your National History Day project.

Florida History Day 2015

Wait—What’s National History Day, you ask?!

Each year, more than half a million students from around the country participate in the National History Day competition, starting in local contests, with winners in various categories advancing to the next level, and ultimately to the national competition at the University of Maryland in June. Students select a topic that relates to an annual theme—this year’s theme is “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” Using primary and secondary resources, they research their topic and present their conclusions in one of the following categories:

  • Research paper: traditional academic paper, complete with citations
  • Exhibit: museum-style exhibit using images, text, and supporting resources
  • Documentary: 10-minute video combining images and analytical narration
  • Website: web-based collection of interactive webpages
  • Performance: 10-minute live performance using actual or composite characters

Projects are evaluated against three standards: historical quality, relation to theme, and clarity of presentation.

Not sure where to start? The National History Day website at is chock full of suggestions and examples, with links to suggested topics, resources, experts who can help, and guidelines. There, you will find links to the National History Day contest for your state. Ask your history or social studies teacher for help—teachers of winning students get official recognition too! You can work as an individual or as a group with friends and classmates. The top entries from each category move on to the next level. Each state has its contest between January and May; the top two projects in every category are invited to attend and compete in the national contest.

The National Maritime Historical Society encourages students to consider a maritime-related topic and offers special prizes in junior and senior divisions, including a $150 cash scholarship, recognition of achievement on our website and at the competition, and a one-year membership (which includes a subscription to Sea History magazine). See suggestions on maritime topics and other tips 

NMHS currently offers special prizes in 25 states, but if yours isn’t on the list posted on our website, please contact us at to ask how you can participate. We would love to help you get started.

Did You Know?

Lebreton Engraving

Today, shipyards have a number of ways to get a ship out of water, either by hauling it out or by floating it into a basin and the water pumped out.

Historically though, sea captains would careen their vessels in shallow water by either heaving it over on its side while it was still afloat or by anchoring in shallow water at high tide and then waiting for the tide to go out. The vessel would touch bottom, and, as the tide went out, lay over on its side.

How does one go about getting a ship, especially a big ship, high and dry out of the water today?

Learn more at A Ship Out of Water