History Fair Workbook: A Manual for Teachers, Students and Parents – KOSTY (CSS)

KOSTY, Carlita. History Fair Workbook: A Manual for Teachers, Students and Parents. Lanham, Maryland and Oxford: Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2002.171p. Resenha de: SENGER, E. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.1, p., 2004.

This is a book about studying and delivering information about history. It guides parents, teachers and students through the fascinating and engaging process of developing a meaningful topic, proceeding through logical steps of research, and compiling the historical information into a format that will excite and interest students, and others who become involved in the project. While the book is based upon a program called National History Day that was developed by the University of Maryland at College Park, many features of it can be adapted to a regular Social Studies or History classroom at virtually any level.

For those American teachers who choose to follow the History Fair process from their local level to possibly regional and national levels, this text provides a clear and useful framework. The History Fair Project has been running for years, and Kosty provides seven years worth of past and upcoming themes: 2002 Revolution, Reaction and Reform in History
2003 Rights and Responsibilities in History
2004 Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History
2005 Communication in History: The Key to Understanding
2006 Taking a Stand in History: People, Places, Ideas
2007 Triumph and Tragedy in History
2008 The Individual in History (p. 17).

Used in conjunction with the History Fair Project these themes furnish a solid basis from which to build the students’ projects and focus their research. For teachers who do not wish to participate in the competitions, these themes could supply a focus for a unit or a whole program.

Through the use of samples, blackline masters and suggested resources in this book, any Social Studies teacher could enhance the delivery of her or his curriculum and engage students more fully in their learning. For example, online contact information is given for the official National History Day organization at www.nationalhistoryday.org. The Annual Curriculum Book and National History Day Rule Book are both available at this website and give easy access for teachers, parents and students.

The subtitle of the book is A Manual for Teachers, Students and Parents and specific sections are directed at each of these groups. A large focus seems to be empowering students to take more control of their own learning; as Kosty puts it The goal is to encourage, not discourage (p. 15). This is clearly sound pedagogical theory and practice, and the ideas, samples and classroom ready materials found in this book will make learning about history more enjoyable and meaningful for everyone involved. By clearly laying out how parents and teachers can help their kids, and how the students can help themselves, Kosty reinforces the goal of encouraging everyone to learn.
Many of the basics of planning, researching and teaching will already be familiar to experienced teachers. The greatest values are in the guidelines for working through a meaningful research process; worksheets, mini tests and samples to guide students; and the provision of lists of resources that will all enhance learning. There is, for example, a History Project Skills Profile on page 8 which lists sources and presentation, interpersonal and social skills which will enable students to be more successful with this project. There is a Library Research Vocabulary quiz on page 40 and a Research Skills Test is found on pages 49-51. These could be used by the teacher to evaluate student progress, or given to students to use for self-evaluation.

History Fair Workbook is a valuable tool for teachers. In addition to the materials already mentioned, it includes samples of the following documents to facilitate planning a history project and/or the delivery of regular Social Studies material: Letter to Parents (p. 21); Group Project Contract (p. 23); Timeline Rules Summary (p. 25); and Teacher’s Checklist (p. 28). There is also an assortment of blackline masters for every step in the process: choosing topics, the research process, evaluation scoring sheets, referencing, writing thesis statements, and even certificates to recognize participation and achievement.

While the projects and themes in Kosty’s book are based upon American state and district standards, they can be adapted to any school district. She has included specific chapters on using the internet (Section V), administering a Campus Fair (Section VI) and also one on Advanced Competition (Section VII) for students who will go on to regional and/or national levels. Since Kosty is an experienced Social Studies teacher as well as a coach and judge for History Fair events, she is well qualified to advise parents, students and teachers in this capacity.

The Appendices provide some sample papers, lists of possible topics, and a list of primary source collections which will be very useful for school libraries and also help teachers to direct their students’ research. A comprehensive Glossary, Bibliography and index simplify referencing the book. On a final note, as with any good teaching material, items will need to be adapted to grade level, the experience students already have with research, each teacher’s comfort level, and school and board policies. For anyone interested in expanding their understanding of and engagement with historical issues, this is truly a valuable resource.

E. Senger – Henry Wise Wood High School. Calgary, AB.

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