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Getting Started FAQs
Getting Started FAQs PDF Print E-mail

If you are new to History Fair, be sure to read the Frequently Asked Questions below. Follow the links in each box to learn more about the History Fair process.

How do I let CMHEC know I would like to participate?

Complete the Intent-to-Participate in Program Form and return it to CMHEC at the beginning of the school year.  The "intent" insures you will receive the project registration form in the spring, one month before the History Fair regional.  Also,by submitting this form as early as possible, you will be apprised of all History Fair events, workshops, and competition notices.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having the History Fair be a voluntary
or classroom requirement?

Over thirty years experience has shown that in-class assignment of History Fair brings a richer, deeper, and effective experience for participants than the extra-curricular model.  Ultimately, however, the decision is up to the teacher(s).  The Voluntary or Required History Fair Comparison chart may help you consider the options.

How does the “NHD theme” relate to History Fair?

The National History Day (NHD) theme is offered each to students as an analytical framework for their History Fair project.  Each year the theme differs.  CMHEC allows a teacher to choose whether or not to require the theme in their History Fair classrooms, but a project cannot advance to the national competition if it is not based on the theme (however, students are eligible for all other prizes).  As a learning tool, the theme encourages students to explore a historical question and develop a thesis based on the theme, which for many students helps them focus and achieve deeper understanding of their topic and history.

Is there a schedule that will assist me in managing the History Fair?

Our website offers several sample benchmarks and schedules developed by veteran teachers that you can adapt to fit your own situation.  Always start your own schedule for the year by looking at the website's Dates and Deadline.  The most important date is the deadline for the competition.  A teacher can work backwards in terms of determining the internal project deadlines as well as the school fair.
What types of projects can students do? Students can choose to present their conclusions as a museum-style exhibit display, a performance, a documentary, a website or a research paper.  All the category rules are on the website and available as pdf.
Which is the best presentation format for a History Fair project?

Some teachers offer all categories of History Fair projects to their students, while others may limit student choice.  We recommend allowing students to select the type of final product they wish to present, but the range of options is up to the teacher.  When selecting a presentation format, students should consider their own learning and communication styles, as well as what presentation format is the best medium to present that research topic. Exhibits are not necessarily the "easiest" or best choice for students.

Students who are visual learners or artistic may be drawn to the exhibit, website, and documentary categories.  Verbal students may prefer to write a paper or the “publicly verbal” students may choose to present what they have learned through performances.

Exhibits, websites, and documentaries require a substantial amount of visual information (photographs, documents, maps, artifacts, graphs, etc.).  If suitable visuals are not available on the student’s research subject, the paper or performance categories may be a more effective way for the student to communicate his/her findings.

Are there rules and guidelines for student projects? Yes, see the CMHEC website for complete rules and guidelines, including project-specific rules for exhibits, documentaries, performances, websites, and papers.  Each category has a guide that explains best practices as well as the rules.
How many students can work together on a project?

In the exhibit, performance, website, or documentary categories, students may work individually or in teams of two to five students, based on teacher discretion.  Papers must be completed by individuals.

How do I organize the actual fair at my school and how do I determine which project advances to the regional fair?

See our guide to Organizing a School Fair.

Many schools use the evaluation materials that CMHEC provides on the website, but others will use their own forms or adapt the CMHEC model.  Schools are allowed to bring a certain number of projects to the fair which is determined, in part, by the number of total projects completed at the school.  Project allowances for both the senior and junior divisions are posted, but staff can verify.

How are student projects judged at the History Fair competition?

Each project is evaluated on four criteria:  knowledge, analysis, sources, and presentation.  Teams of volunteer judges evaluate the students’ projects using the scoring rationale.

Exhibit, performance, and documentary students present their projects and are interviewed by judges at regional competitions.  If a student is unable to present his or her project for judging on the day of the competition, prior arrangements must be made with the CMHEC staff.

Paper and website students submit their essays and urls on an alternate schedule.  They are not required to attend the competitions in order to have their projects evaluated.  Students may be invited to attend a Papers & Website Forum.

You can find the Junior Division and Senior Division evaluation forms here on the CMHEC site.  Some teachers provide a copy of the form at the outset so students know the expectations.  The forms may also be used or adapted for the school’s history fair.

Which competition do we attend?

There are three Chicago area competitions:

Suburban Senior Division (9-12 grades), City Senior Division (9-12 grades), Chicago Metro Junior Division (6-8 grades in city and suburbs)

The current schedule is available on our website.  CMHEC sends the registration form only to the schools that have submitted the Intent to Participate in Program Form.  Registration is due two weeks in advance of the competitions.

Each regional competition has a formula for the number of projects that can be entered.  Teachers will find specific information on their registration form.  Once the students are selected to advance, teachers will give those students.

Are there any fees?

The 2014-2015 History Fair Partners Fee is $475.  It entitles the school to one school visit, teachers and students may attend most History Fair workshops and special programs/services for free or at a low cost and covers the entire entry fee for each student that enters the competitions. First-year schools pay a discounted rate of $200 and particularly poor schools may request a fee reduction or a one-time waiver. If schools participate in the History Fair but do not pay the HFP, then schools will be charged per student.  View the Details of the Partners Program for more information.

What type of support can I expect from CMHEC?

Call 312.255.3661 during weekday business hours or email info@chicagohistoryfair.org (24/7) with questions. We try to return emails within 24 hours.

During the school year CMHEC offers a number of professional development workshops for teachers.  We hold workshops in which students, parents, and teachers may attend, and by appointment-only, one-on-one coaching sessions for advancing students.

Teachers can request a school visit for History Fair staff to meet with teachers and/or students, 9-4pm.  One school visit is available for each History Fair Partner School.  (CMHEC recommends scheduling multiple student presentations in one day rather than large-group auditorium presentations.)   Teachers may email a request to CMHEC.

The CMHEC web site is a “virtual History Fair manual.”   Please explore or use the site search if you are looking for particular information.


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