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History Fair and the National History Standards

The Chicago Metro History Fair addresses each one of the National History Standards for Historical Thinking in Grades 5-12.


Standard 1:
Chronological Thinking
History Fair students not only examine historical events at a particular moment in time, they also connect those events to preceding events and succeeding consequences, building understanding of the process of historical continuity and change.  Because students select their own subject for study, a ready-made timeline may not be neatly provided for student use; instead, students must construct their own timelines and therefore develop the chronological thinking skills needed to understand how events in the past are connected.
Standard 2:
Historical Comprehension
Developing historical comprehension is a key strength of the History Fair because of the substantial amount of diverse material that students must read and understand.  History Fair participants read not only for literal meaning, but also look for the deeper historical implications of their sources.  In their research, participants may encounter newspaper articles, letters, photographs, laws, government documents, graphs, interviews, broadsides, and historical articles.  Students must decipher the key ideas and information from their sources and ask questions to distinguish the perspective, intention, and interpretation of the author.  Because History Fair sources are not pre-packaged for students with the most important passages already extracted, the program builds authentic comprehension skills.
Standard 3:
Historical Analysis and Interpretation
History Fair students use higher-order thinking skills as they make judgments about the historical narratives they encounter and examine the strength of evidence authors provide to justify their case.  Participants are asked to explain cause and effect, put historical events in their broader context, and assess the larger impact and significance of historical events.  In the process, they learn that history is an interpretation of events in the past -- an understanding which is further reinforced when students write their own theses and develop their arguments, or interpretations, for their projects.
Standard 4:
Historical Research Capabilities
Research is at the heart of the History Fair enterprise in which students research broadly and deeply.  Following their own interests, students develop and pursue historical questions by seeking answers from a rich variety of primary and secondary sources.  History Fair students go beyond their textbooks by doing research at libraries, cultural and historical institutions, historic sites, and by conducting interviews.  In using online sources, they must move beyond Google into authoritative websites and databases and thereby gain internet literacy skills. They learn about and use secondary sources – history books, journal articles, interviews with historians, specialized historical encyclopedias, etc. – as well as original primary sources like diaries, letters, government records, manuscripts, and oral history interviews.
Standard 5:
Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making
History Fair students identify central issues and problems in the past based on their own interests and concerns.  Students most commonly select historical questions that give them opportunities to examine social and civic problems that still resonate today.  Civil and political rights, culture, community, and issues of life, work, and leadership provide rich examples to examine historical problems and decisions as well as fertile ground for student inquiry.  By looking at the past, they come to understand the present better, and begin to shape their future.

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