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History Day

The tranquil atmosphere mutes the modern world as I walk into Pioneer Hall at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. It’s so peaceful here, and in 285,000 square feet it’s easy to forget the tensions outside. Surrounded by the past, I’m spending the day with people who love history as much as I do.

One Saturday at this place with history peeps for the History Day regional competition!

Students, teachers, and parents gathered at the museum this past Saturday for the National History Day Regional competition. Entries are based on a theme and participants bring the past to life through a variety of mediums. This year the theme, Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events, was conveyed through website design, table-top exhibits, documentary film, and research papers. Each category is judged by a two or three person team of local volunteers. The top two winners of each category advances to the state level competition, held in Austin. Winners from the state advance to National History Day held in Washington, D.C.

“Our kids from this region hold their own at the state competition,” said Elaina Cunningham, Education Coordinator at PPHM. “I think this speaks to the caliber of young people we have who are willing to work after school and on weekends on their projects, and to the committed teachers who encourage them.” The regional competition is held in Canyon every year. Local teachers and students share a common appreciation for history.

This is the fourth year I have enjoyed participating as a judge for the written papers and the best part are the interviews. It’s a stressful experience for the students, but I really enjoy learning about their research. The kids in this area always exceed my expectations in their ability to choose a topic and form a thesis around the theme. I have learned so much from their efforts.

This year I met the delightful and energetic Kate Hopfer, Program Coordinator for K-12 with the Texas State Historical Association. She told me that the History Day competition is a popular program for many youth and their teachers all over our state, with the San Antonio area having the largest numbers as far as participation. I enjoyed visiting with her and hearing about the entire process most particularly how everyone comes together in Washington D.C. for the final competition.

National History Day started in 1974 in Cleveland as one day devoted to history. By 1980 it had grown into a nation wide program.

Today, over 45,000 Texas students are involved in the statewide competition coordiated by the Texas State Historical Association.

The National website

For more information about educational programs at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum visit