About NHD

What is National History Day

National History Day (NHD) is a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students.

Watch a movie about National History Day

five girls eating sandwichs in the grass in the park

Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators. The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.

See what participants have to say

In addition to discovering the exciting world of the past, NHD also helps students develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

  • understanding, analyzing and evaluating historical research and interpretation
  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • self esteem and confidence
  • a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process


National History Day has two divisions:

  • Junior Division (grades 6-8)
  • Senior Division (grades 9-12)

Students can enter one of the following categories:

  • Historical paper—a traditional research composition 1500-2500 words in length; individual entries only.
  • Exhibit—similar to a museum exhibit; individual or group entries.
  • Performance—a dramatic portrayal of a topic; individual or group entries.
  • Documentary—a multi-media production created to detail a topic; individual or group entries.
  • Website—a website designed to explore a topic in detail; individual or group entries.

Groups can consist of two to five students.

Students compete at several levels of competition:

  • Local—a school may hold an event to highlight student accomplishments and narrow down regional participants, if necessary.
  • Regional—Regional competitions are held in the spring. Students must compete on the regional level, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each category advancing to state.
  • State—the state contest is held in early May. 1st and 2nd place finishers win the right to compete at the national level.
  • Nationals—Nationals are held at the University of Maryland, College Park in June.

Regional Competition at Penn State Wilkes Barre

Penn State Wilkes-Barre is the location for the R2 Counties (Luzerne County (except Hazelton) Lackawanna County, Susquehanna County, Sullivan County, Wyoming County, Wayne County, Monroe County, and Pike County) Regional Competition. The competition is held annually in March.

Winners at the R2 Regional Competition go on to compete at the State Competition at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, PA in May, and those winners go on to the National Competition at  the University of Maryland in June.

For Information regarding the Regional Competition or History Day please contact:

Mrs. Janis Winter
Penn State Wilkes-Barre
P.O. Box PSU
Lehman, PA 18627