Great Contests to Look Forward to this Year

Each year, there are a number of national contests and competitions for schools, classes, and teams of students and teachers. We have compiled a list of contests to look out for in 2019.


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History sponsors the Civil War Essay Contest for grades 5 through 8 and grades 9 through 12. Students write an essay or create a documentary film on a topic relevant to the conflict. For essay and film submissions, students must use at least five primary sources, including at least one document from the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Essays must be 1,000 to 1,200 words in length for middle school entries and 1,500 to 1,800 words for high school entries. Video submissions must be five to seven minutes, with all shooting and editing done by the student and sources cited in the film’s credits.

Entries are due February 25, 2019.


Population Education sponsors a video contest open to all middle and high school students in grades 6 through 12. Contest entrants create a short video of 60 seconds or less that illustrates the connection between population growth and one of the three following global challenges: (1) preserving biodiversity, (2) sustainable resource use, and (3) protecting human rights. All videos must include how population growth impacts the issue and provide at least one idea for a sustainable solution.

Each video must have one student designated as lead producer. While several students may work together on the project, it must be submitted under one name. Adults may assist with productions as actors or camerapersons, but may not contribute content.

Entries are due February 28, 2019.



The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History sponsors the Dear George Washington Contest for elementary school students. This writing contest encourages students to imagine the United States at its founding by composing a letter to President George Washington from the point of view of a person attending his first inauguration on April 30, 1789, in New York City. Letters should be 250–300 words in length and explain what President Washington should focus on in his first term in office. Top contest winners and their schools receive prizes.

Entries are due March 25, 2019.



The National Poetry Out Loud Competition invites high school students in grades 9 through 12, as well as eighth graders that participate in high school-level classes, to compete in local, state, and national finals in the recitation of poetry. Prizes are awarded to winning students and their schools at the state and national levels. The program is administered in partnership with arts agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.


To participate, students must first compete in a school- or local-level contest to advance to their state competition. Schools must register their competitions with the state arts agency to count toward the state finals. Students in home schools are eligible to compete in local-level contests. Winning students at the state level then advance to the national competition, which involves an elimination round to identify nine finalists to vie for National Champion.

States hold their competitions by mid-March. Following the state finals, the National Finals are held in Washington, DC, at the end of April. The 2019 National Finals take place April 30 through May 1, 2019.



Students are invited to participate in the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day (NHD) Contest. This year’s theme is “Triumph and Tragedy in History.” Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide, participate in the NHD Contest. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances, and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state, and national levels, where professional historians and educators evaluate them. The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Check the website for the dates of the 50 state-level contests. The National Contest is held June 9 through June 13, 2019.



Solve for Tomorrow is a video competition sponsored by Samsung. Its goal is to give schools across the United States the opportunity to raise interest and foster more enthusiasm in science, technology, arts, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) subjects among students by awarding their schools with a share of more than $2 million in technology.


The contest asks participants to submit ideas on how STEAM can help improve their local community and empower students to learn creative problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The competition has several phases. In phase one, entrants submit an application describing an important issue in their school’s community, explain how applicants could apply STEAM to address the issue, and address how creative thinking can be incorporated in the project. At the end of phase one evaluation, up to five entries per state (a total of 255) with the highest judging scores are deemed potential state finalists and advance to phase two.

Phase one opens in mid-September each year, with final voting starting in March.



The annual EngineerGirl Essay Contest encourages students to write about the role of engineering in society and the impact it has on the world. Each year, the contest has a new theme. All essays must be original work and resources must be clearly cited. More details are provided on the website. The contest is open to individual girls and boys in each of three categories: grades 3 through 5, grades 6 through 8, and grades 9 through 12.

Essay entries are due between February and March each year.



The American Geosciences Institute is sponsoring a photography contest to celebrate Earth Science Week. Each year, the contest has a new theme. Earth Week 2019 is held from October 13 through October 19, 2019. Entries must be original, authentic, unpublished photographs that capture evidence of ways people are inspired by Earth in their art, be it through dance, sculpture, or some other art form.


The photographs are judged by a panel of geoscientists on creativity, as well as relevance to and incorporation of the topic. The winner’s name and photograph, as well as the names of the finalists, are posted on the Earth Science Week website. Entries must be submitted by email.

Entries are due during Earth Science week (October 13–19, 2019).



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