Texas Times: Texas History Day

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Apr. 28, 2010, 3:44am

As a Texan, a San Antonio native, the son of a decorated veteran and a U.S. Senator with the privilege of holding Sam Houston's original seat in the Senate, I have a deep appreciation for Texas history.

From the defenders of the Alamo to the cattlemen on the Chisholm Trail, and the many brave men and women who have helped to shape Texas history, I am fascinated by these trailblazers and the defining events that made Texas what it is today.

I believe one of the most important things we can do � as parents, educators, and leaders � is to encourage Texas young people to learn more about our state's rich history.

Every year, as many as 45,000 Texas students, grades six through 12, participate in Texas History Day � a yearlong program coordinated by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) that challenges students to learn more about Texas history and demonstrate their knowledge through creative entries such as performances, documentaries, interpretive websites or three-dimensional exhibits.

Throughout the year, students research their selected topics and work to produce their entries. Entries are first judged in regional competitions throughout Texas, hosted each spring.

Winning entries advance to the state level or the Texas History Day fair, which this year will be hosted in Austin from May 7-8. In June, state winners advance to the National History Day competition hosted at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Typically, nearly 1,000 Texas students participate in the state fair each year, with about 60 students advancing to the national fair.

Entries are judged according to three Texas History Day criteria: historical quality, clarity of presentation, and adherence to theme.

The annual theme is decided on the national level, and while Texas students can choose topics on any aspect of Texas history, their entries must tie into the national annual theme. This year's theme is "Innovation in History: Impact and Change."

In 2009, several Texas students placed at the national level, including students from Eisenhower and Nimitz high schools in Houston, Carroll High School in Corpus Christi, O. Henry Middle School in Austin, Boerne Middle School North, Lake Air and Tennyson middle schools in Waco, and Horace Mann and Baytown junior high schools in Baytown.

In addition to competing to advance to the national level, students who make it to the state fair can compete for several scholarships and special awards, such as the Jewish History Award sponsored by the Texas Jewish Historical Society; the Willie Lee Gay Award for African-American History sponsored by Ms. Willie Lee Gay; and the Ruth Winegarten Award for entries about Texas women's history.

Written entries are also eligible to earn publication in several journals such as the Texas Historian, an annual magazine showcasing the work of Texas' outstanding student historians.

While entries have already been selected for this year's state fair, I encourage all young Texans to participate in next year's Texas History Day. It is truly a rewarding experience to learn about our great state, the historic events that shaped it, and the men and women who paved the way for our freedoms and way of life.

I applaud the work of the Texas State Historical Association, which has made endless contributions to preserving the colorful, rich history of Texas.

To learn more about Texas History Day and find out how you can participate, visit: http://www.tshaonline.org/education/thd/index.html or call TSHA's Educational Services Division, (940) 369-5200.

Source: Texas State Historical Association

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice and Bexar County District Judge.

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