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March 8, 2011 > Lessons from the past, looking to the future

Lessons from the past, looking to the future

By Alyson Whitaker

Alameda County Office of Education has organized a special History Day Weekend March 11-12. Over 200 students from Alameda and Contra Costa county schools will be presenting approximately 100 projects, including documentary films, websites, papers, museum exhibits, and dramatic performances revolving around this year's theme-"Debate and Diplomacy: Successes, Failures, Consequences."

The weekend will kick off with a special evening presentation from civil-rights pioneers Dolores Huerta and Cruz Reynoso. Ms. Huerta was co-founder of United Farm Workers, and Mr. Reynoso was California's first Latino Supreme Court justice. Both focused significant effort in their careers to gain fair and equal rights for working people. On Friday, March 11, the two will engage in conversation about their experiences and how it influenced the development of labor relations, as well as looking to the future and discussing the challenges that still remain.

"Today, more than ever, young people see the power of their collective voice," said Sheila Jordan, Superintendent of Alameda County Schools. "We welcome Dolores Huerta as a leader in movements for social change, and are excited to have her share her wisdom and experience with students and teachers."

The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest makes history come alive for today's youth, encouraging them to discover and learn from the cultural, social, and historic experiences of yesteryear. Through students' hands-on presentations, participants are inspired to look ahead to the future and seek after ways to affect change-for themselves, their families, communities, and ultimately their nation. Students compete at local levels, with winners advancing to regional, state, and finally, the national competition held in June at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Individuals or teams choose historical topics related to the annual theme, and go through extensive research to develop their conclusions about their topics' historical significance. They then present their finished project to a team of judges. Judges evaluate the projects, and interview each participant or team about their findings. Students have the chance to share what they learned through their research, how the topic has relevance to the theme, and what they concluded through the experience.

Students gain more than a better understanding of the past through participation in the event. History provides a great reinforcement to principles learned in other core subjects. National History Day participation also helps students improve research and reading skills, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. They gain oral and written communication skills as they prepare and present their projects, which builds self-esteem and confidence. With a stronger understanding of the democratic process and the link between the past, present, and future, they are inspired to go into the world and put into practice lessons learned through their participation in National History Day.

Students will present their projects on Saturday, March 12 from noon-3 p.m., followed by an award ceremony from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. The award ceremony will feature a performance by Ricardo Salinas of Culture Clash, and will include the 2nd annual presentation of the Claudette Colvin award, which recognizes the best student project challenging injustice.

More information on the National History Day Weekend can be found online on the "Events" page of Alameda County Office of Education at Avi Black is the History & Social Science Coordinator at ACOE, and can be reached at (510) 670-4239, or

History Day Weekend:
Friday, March 11 and Saturday, March 12
(510) 670-4239

Friday, March 11:
"A Special Evening Advancing Civility in Public Discourse"
5:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m.
Oakland Asian Cultural Center
388 Ninth Street, Oakland
Tickets may be purchased at the door, or online at
$15 Adults/$5 Youth

Saturday, March 12:
History Day Student Competition
12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak Street, Oakland
Awards Ceremony
3 p.m. -4:30 p.m.
"The Forum" at Laney College
900 Fallon Street, Oakland
Both Saturday events are free of charge and open to the public

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