Guest Blog Post by Deputy Director Kim Fortney
Canada’s inaugural History Day program was two years in the making. On April 4, 2014 this hard work paid off at a contest that showcased the historical research of nearly 300 students from Ottawa area schools.
Organizers executed an impeccable event complete with a bagpiper, native smudging ceremony, and a video greeting during the welcome ceremony from Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield. The contest program featured a congratulatory letter to all students written by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The event was rounded-out with a keynote from a member of a popular Canadian rock band and a welcome from the mayor of Ottawa, who officially opened the awards ceremony. A cultural attaché from the U.S. Embassy and a representative from TD Bank, the program’s sponsor, joined the festivities by handing awards to the winning students. The attaché and other embassy staff were very proud to see a strong beginning of a program in Canada that is based on the successful National History Day in the United States.
Canada’s program is modeled after National History Day but independent at this time. The program’s leaders adapted NHD’s rules and structure to build a competition that meets Canada’s dual-language requirement, which mandates that all opportunities must be available in equal measure in both official languages. Hence, students created projects either in French or English and judges evaluated their work accordingly.
Canada’s History Day program is poised for growth beyond the city of Ottawa. Contacts are being made with provincial leaders throughout Ontario and the other provinces to eventually create provincial contests that will feed into a national contest to be held in Ottawa. The phenomenal success of the inaugural contest will ease efforts to increase support as the program grows.