From the past, for the future

The Charlotte News checks in on Vermont History Day

By Kali Adams | The Charlotte News

Exploration, encounter and exchange—three words that can cover such a broad depth, especially when applied to history. This year on April 2, Vermont History Day, put on by the Vermont Historical Society, was filled with students’ projects relating to those three words.

Each student had chosen a distinct topic, researched it and then formulated a project for the state competition. This undertaking is not unique to Vermont, however—thousands of students across America have been participating in similar competitions, with winners proceeding to a national competition in Washington, D.C.


Young historians

Vermont History Day plans for the future by looking at the past. By having students develop their own historical projects, students not only learn how to analyze and understand historical data, they must come to their own conclusions regarding it. Why is such-and-such a primary historical figure? Did that battle really change the war? How did this event shape the world as we know it today? Having a theme to guide them narrows topic selection, but students must choose how they are going to present their topic in relation to the theme.

Maintaining both a museum and a research library near Montpelier, the Vermont Historical Society’s mission is to explore and educate the public about our state’s rich heritage. Current projects include Vermont women’s history, various archaeological workings and research involving the 1970s counterculture movement. The latter project is one of their most recent, and one we can all connect to. Even Charlotte was affected by the wave of new ideas that led to huge population growth in town— from 1,271 in the 1960s to 1,802 in the 1970s and then 2,561 in the 1980s. History is interconnected in far more ways than we imagine, and it’s often minor shifts such as population increase that drive change.

Most students participating have an obvious interest in history. To spend many hours toiling over a website or to portray a prominent Vermont figure in a live performance must involve passion. But History Day develops that passion into something more. It encourages students to use their knowledge to create understanding, effectively training the next generation of historians.