University Relations and Communications

Middle school, high school students learn history by doing history

April 20, 2010



Dr. Tom Rust, assistant professor of history, 657-2891
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Public invited to take in variety of research exhibits


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Most weekends this time of year, Montana State University Billings is a place where students are eyebrow-deep in textbooks, studying facts and concepts for their final exams.


This weekend, however, some talented middle school and high school students will arrive at the university to show off their skills as researchers.


The Montana Association of REALTORS Montana State National History Day Competition comes to MSU Billings on Saturday, April 24. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with sessions dedicated to exhibits, documentaries, research papers and website development, all done by Montana students in grades 4-12. Exhibits, performances, documentaries and the awards ceremonies will be held in different rooms of the MSU Billings Liberal Arts and Library buildings and will be open to the public.


There is no charge for admission into the event.


The contest has gained popularity from its inaugural competition last year, with the number of participants growing by 270 percent.

Twelve teachers and home school parents have had 145 students from five schools enter 77 projects this year. There will be 40 museum exhibits and 12 documentaries, five dramatic performances and 20 websites available for the public to view.


Documentaries and performances will be shown from 10-11:30 a.m. and the exhibits will be available for public viewing from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The awards ceremony will be from 1:15-2 p.m. 


During the awards ceremony, Shane Fairbanks of Billings Central will receive the Patricia Behring Montana Teacher of the Year Award for High School Teachers and Megan Pennington of Washington Middle School in Glendive will receive the same award for middle school teachers. Each will receive $500 and compete with teachers from around the country for a National Award.


Also in attendance will be Dr. Cathy Gorn, the executive director of National History Day.


National History Day is a national program designed to give elementary and secondary students an opportunity to gain some lifetime skills and make learning fun. It also provides their teachers with some tools to engage students and meet national educational standards, said Dr. Tom Rust, assistant professor of history at MSU Billings and the coordinator of National History Day for Montana. 


National History Day has a long standing reputation for excellence since the early 1970s, but it has only now reached Montana. Nationally and over the course of the program, more than 5 million students have gone on to careers in business, law, medicine and other disciplines where they are putting into practice what they learned through their National History Day endeavors.

National History Day is actually not a singular day, but an experience. It’s a yearlong program that uses history to challenge middle school and high school students to improve their research, analytical and communications skills. Whether done individually or in groups, students select a topic and conduct research on it based on a broad theme which changes annually. The theme this year is innovation in history.


For more information on the event, contact Rust at 657-2891.