On October 23, 2013, the University Libraries hosted the second annual “Night at the Libraries” for K-12 Clark County School District (CCSD) students conducting research for a National History Day project and contest. This year, approximately 110 CCSD students visited the UNLV Libraries with their parents and teachers for an in-depth introduction and exploration of university library research.
National History Day (NHD) is a national program designed to frame K-12 students’ research with a historical theme. Students conducting primary and secondary research for this year’s contest are focused on a topic related to the annual theme “Rights and Responsibilities in History.”
The UNLV Libraries’ “Night at the Libraries” was born through a partnership with CCSD in 2012. According to Emily Rodriguez, CCSD’s project facilitator for K-12 Social Studies, “It was such a successful and worthwhile event that we wanted to continue it this year”. Because the historical theme varies from year-to-year, Rodriguez and Su Kim Chung, Head of Special Collections Public Services, designed the program to include a Nevada-related topic focus, as the NHD contest will be held during Nevada’s sesquicentennial year. The Nevada emphasis was particularly important this year as “local topics as a whole fair much better at the national level,” Rodriguez explained.
This year’s “Night at the Libraries” guided students through three important sessions: a library tour by the Mason Peer Research Coaches, a newspaper database searching workshop taught by Humanities Librarian Priscilla Finley, and an opportunity to narrow and focus their topics led by Peter Michel and Chung in Special Collections. Michel offered an engaging discussion about civil rights in Las Vegas which Chung shared “caused one group of students to change their topic on the spot.”
Discussing the materials he selected for the event, Michel noted, “It is important for students to understand—through research in local collections, libraries and historical institutions—how the major national themes which National History Day identifies, played out in their own community.”
Attendees who responded to a survey following the History Day “Night at the Libraries” event were overwhelmingly positive in their responses. “It was a great experience for me, and I learned a lot of useful information to help me with my project.” said one student, while another declared it, “Very informative and enjoyable!”
When asked what the best part of the event had been, one student summed it up by saying, “Everything! I have already been back and loved the trip—thanks so much for having me.”
One parent added, “This event really helped my son and seemed to get the kids really excited about their projects.”
Community partnership programs like this one represent UNLV Libraries’ effort to situate itself in the community and to promote information literacy through outreach. The result is a benefit to everyone involved. “Any time students can come to a college campus and get the feel for post-public education is a positive thing as it promotes the CCSD goal of college and career readiness,” Rodriquez said. “Specifically, this event helped students learn to do proper research and gain access to a university-level library that they have no idea how to use. The skills they learn can then be transposed to other libraries and hopefully back to UNLV Libraries in the future.”
A second event, the History Day Research Clinic, will take place January 30 to help students with more in-depth research questions. Rodriquez is anticipating another successful event and stated, “I’m really looking forward to this ‘research clinic.’ I envision experts sitting with the students, discussing narrower topics while also helping them identify primary versus secondary sources for their annotated bibliographies.”
For more information regarding Nevada NHD visit: http://nevadanhd.weebly.com/nhd-theme-information.html.