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September 14, 2007

CW encourages student creativity for Virgina History Day entries

As students return to the classroom this fall, Colonial Williamsburg reminds teachers and parents to encourage them to begin thinking about projects for the 2008 National History Day (NHD). The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the Virginia affiliate of National History Day, which invites students from across the country to enter an annual national history competition. The theme for 2008 is “Conflict and Compromise in History,” and students are asked to examine how both have shaped the course of history.

More than 600,000 students in grades six through 12, including 2,000 from Virginia, are expected to enter this year’s competition. Whether from rural or urban areas attending private or public schools, students apply the skills of a historian as they conduct research for projects they hope will take them all the way to the National History Day competition in College Park, Md., in June 2008.

National History Day promotes historical inquiry, knowledge and understanding among elementary and secondary students. Through an educational program culminating in nationwide competitions, NHD encourages the development of research skills, analytical thinking and creative expression. The most important purpose of NHD is to change the way history is taught – and learned – by challenging students to conduct meaningful historical inquiry and providing a positive learning environment in which students’ work is evaluated in a constructive manner outside the classroom by judges made up of university professors, high school teachers, museum curators and other public historians.

NHD encourages active learning and motivates teachers to use primary sources in their classrooms and to teach students how to analyze and interpret these materials. It promotes the study of history by allowing students to express themselves creatively in a variety of formats.

Students may enter the competition in one of four categories: exhibit, performance, documentary and paper, and they may enter as individuals or in groups of two to five.

“I have seen students completely transformed by this process,” said Tab Broyles, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of teacher professional development and NHD state coordinator for Virginia. “The competition stimulates them to strive for excellence and develops lifelong thinking and presentation skills. They produce original plays, documentary films, artwork, thoughtful papers, music and poetry. Sometimes the whole family gets involved and becomes excited about using primary sources to make the study of history come alive. This year’s theme is a provocative one, and I expect their creativity will be quite evident once again.”

Seven students from Virginia placed in the top 10 in the nation in their categories in the 2007 competition. Placing third in Senior Group Performance were Arthur Conley, Mona Hovaizi, Samantha Lin, Mohammad Rasool and Paul Michel from Monticello High School in Albemarle County for their project titled “Aliyah, Al-Nakba: Zionist Return, Palestinian Exile.” Emily Wolfteich, from Edison High School in Alexandria, placed seventh in Senior Individual Performance for her project, “Singing What We Cannot Say: Verdi’s Requiem in Terezin.” Anneliese Marty, from Hampton Roads Academy in Newport News, placed eighth in Senior Individual Exhibit for “One Man’s Triumph, One Man’s Tragedy.”

In addition to the awards in each category, special awards and scholarships are also presented. Two students from Virginia won the national competition in 2007. Paul Michel and Mohammad Rasool from Monticello High School in Albemarle County were awarded full tuition scholarships to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, renewable for four years. Michel and Rasool competed with an original historical performance on the ongoing conflict in Israel and the history of the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Israeli state which addressed the National History Day theme “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” Their performance was titled “Aliyah, Al-Nakba: Zionist Return, Palestinian Exile.” The award, valued at more than $120,000, is usually presented to only one individual, but Case Western Reserve University made an exception due to the outstanding quality of the two applicants and their project.

“They were two remarkable young men,” said Broyles. “I will not soon forget them, or their families.”

Students and teachers can learn more about how to participate in Virginia History Day by contacting state coordinator Tab Broyles at 757-220-7975 or or visiting For more information on National History day, visit

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280