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Colorado History Day Program

Students get creative with history

The Colorado History Day program, organized by the CLAS history department, annually reaches nearly 20,000 students statewide and hosts nearly 1500 students on campus for a state competition every May.

When asked to take over the planning of Colorado History Day, Department of History Instructors Christine Sundberg and Susan Gustin jumped at the opportunity. Colorado History Day is the state-level program for middle and high-school students to discover and research a topic in history and present it in a creative format.

Formerly run by graduate students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the competition is now in its third year of being organized by UC Denver. With Sundberg at the helm as state coordinator and Gustin as assistant state coordinator, they facilitate program engagement of more than 650 Colorado students statewide.

The program excites children about history, Gustin explains. Students realize that Colorado and their region have historical importance. They also learn critical thinking and problem solving skills through the use of primary and secondary sources. "It forces them to analyze and think through what's truth, what's not truth, and how to represent points of view," says Gustin. "They learn the ability to separate good information from bad information."

While critical thinking is at the core of the program, students must bridge their research skills with creative expression. Students choose from five categories to present their projects: dramatic performances, imaginative exhibits, multimedia documentaries, interactive Web sites or research papers.

And although it's called Colorado History Day, it's really a year-long educational program.

"It's not just a contest; it's a curriculum," says Sundberg.

The first and second-place winners from each category will go on to compete in June at National History Day at the University of Maryland.