History Day: Headed to State

April 24, 2019


Caleb Chen ’24

It was the start of Winter Term when I was first told about History Day. At that moment I was certain that it was just another typical school project. I’ve never been more wrong! The entire History Day experience has been an experience I would never in a lifetime forget.

When I first started to think about my topic, I had a ton of ideas pouring into my head. Examples like Marbury v. Madison, the Chinese Exclusion Act, invention of nuclear weapons, Nixon’s abolishment of the gold standard, discovery of the online world–I was loaded with ideas. One day, while I was still struggling to figure out a good topic, I saw it–the event that would eventually become my topic for History Day–on a Chinese talk show. It was related to the extraordinary adventures of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Japanese Americans in the US during WWII.

For future History Day participants, I recommend you don’t listen to other people.  Don’t pick a topic that would make Ms. Garlinski. or your parent or your friends happy. Choose a topic for yourself–a topic that would be fun to study for you! And I would recommend a topic that not many people know about, but it’s all up to you.

The time then came when I had to pick a category. That wasn’t hard because making videos or documentaries was always something I wanted to do. There are advantages and disadvantages to picking the documentary category. One key advantage is that it is easy to present–you just let the judges watch the video although you still have a Q&A session at the end. One disadvantage is that it is very difficult to make. You need the right software, a lot of pictures (100+), a good script, and a good recording device, which are available in weCreate.

If you have ever made or would ever make a documentary, you might agree with me that writing the script would be the most difficult part. Writing is a talent which I am not the best at, so I got help from the amazing website, Grammarly. And also, while writing a script, make sure you’ve done your research. Research should be one of the more important parts of History Day; research carefully, and patiently! Be careful and patient, don’t miss out on important details, and don’t get mad if you can’t immediately find the information you are looking for. In due time, it will all come together.

Audio recording isn’t hard. Your voice isn’t bad. It’s just that whenever you listen to your own voice being played on a loudspeaker in front of 10 or more people, you think it’s bad! Every time you hear your own voice, you keep thinking it can be better, but actually, it’s already very good. It’s extremely common, so don’t worry about it. In fact, 38% of people can’t even recognize their own voice! Just speak clearly and don’t make mistakes.

The big event is when you present your project. Presenting at SSM is the easiest because everyone who is looking at your project is someone you know, including the judges, who are teachers. Presenting at Regionals is harder. It’s the first time you find yourself presenting your project in front of people you don’t know. But the higher the level, the more people you have to present in front of and the harder it gets. Always remember to improve your project if you make it to the next level. And always prepare for the Q&A section towards the end of your presentation; that could always be a pain but it would also always be helpful to make an even better impression of yourself towards the judges. If you don’t make it to the next level, don’t be sad or disappointed in yourself as long as you put in your best effort. Congratulate those that do make it to the next level and give them your support and encouragement!

This year’s regional competition was held at Minnesota State University in Mankato, about 50 miles west of Faribault, with many schools attending, including St. Mary’s School (Bird Island), Delano Middle School, Twin Oaks Middle School (Prior Lake), and Mankato West High School. There were roughly 200 students there, and I am very grateful I was selected to represent SSM in the State level competition, which will take place on Saturday, May 4.

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    Kelly Garlinski