Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

What are the Next Generation Angels Awards (NGAAs)?
The Next Generation Angels Awards are an annual awards program that seeks to honor and promote the work of six young historical documentary filmmakers, three in middle school and three in high school. These six winners are selected by National History Day as the winners of their Individual Documentary film competition and then honored by The Better Angels Society with this program. The goal of this program is to establish these exceptional young people as the next generation of historical documentary filmmakers in the mold of Ken Burns and to engage students and teachers across the country in documentary film as a pedagogical tool.

What is The Better Angels Society?
The Better Angels Society is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization based in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to educate Americans about their history through documentary film. Our goal is to educate, engage and provoke thoughtful discussion among people of every political persuasion and ideology. The Society is dedicated to ensuring that historically significant films are completed, broadcast, promoted and preserved to reach as many people as possible through robust educational and civic outreach for decades to come. We seek to accomplish this by supporting filmmakers like Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Laurens Grant, as well as programs like the Next Generation Angels Awards, the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, and the Georgetown University Ken Burns Public Dialogue Initiative.

What events comprise the Next Generation Angels Awards?
Every year, The Better Angels Society partners with National History Day and the Library of Congress to organize two public-facing events as part of this program: 

  • Professional development event for teachers: “Students Teach the Teachers” Research Orientation and Copyright Presentation, and 
  • A national live-streamed event for middle and high school students: The Student History Documentary Film Festival. 

The “Students Teach the Teachers” event is focused on how and why teachers can and should use archival research as the basis for investigations into the past, and to help teachers who want to support student-centered learning to teach history by asking their students to make documentary films in the style of Ken Burns. This event, which takes place this year from 7-8 PM ET on Tuesday, October 19th, seeks to flip the script on teachers by affording them an opportunity to learn about how this year’s award-winning students conducted their research. The one-hour webinar is hosted by National History Day’s Deputy Director, Kim Fortney, and includes remarks from George Thuronyi of the U.S. Copyright Office, who will present official Library copyrights to this year’s student winners.

The Student History Documentary Film Festival is an online, live-streamed event that will operate like a “virtual field trip” for middle and high school students and run from 12 to 2 PM ET on Wednesday, October 20th, 2021. The Film Festival is hosted by Mike Mashon, Head of the Moving Image Section at the Library of Congress. The students’ 10-minute history documentaries stream in realtime to a nationwide audience of thousands of students and teachers, followed by Q&As with each group of three filmmakers. This event provides a free, innovative, and exciting opportunity for teachers to engage their students in history as a creative, dynamic, living concept, and hopefully inspire the students in attendance to make history documentaries of their own.

How can my students and I watch these events?
Anyone interested in attending these events can sign up for them using the Swoogo site links on the main page of this website. For the “Students Teach the Teachers” event, all you need to do is to enter your information and a Zoom link will be emailed to you ahead of time to ensure that you can watch it. Afterward, everyone who attends will be sent a certificate recognizing their participation in the professional development opportunity.

For the Film Festival, all you need to do is register your classroom for the event with some basic information and then plan with your administrators and media specialists to find the best way to host the event at your school. This can be in your classroom on a TV or Smart Board, a media lab or library in your school with a projection screen or TV, or in an auditorium with multiple classrooms in attendance. Technical specifications and recommendations for this event are included below.

SIGNUP: Any middle or high school-aged community is appropriate and welcome to the Film Festival. 
Advance registration is available now HERE and is required. 

  • Upon registration, teachers, librarians, school administrators, or homeschooling parents will receive email notifications and reminders as well as login information as the event approaches.
  • Although the National History Day organization is involved in this event, any school wishing to participate may do so, regardless of whether they are affiliated with National History Day.
  • To view last year’s virtual event, which had the same format, click HERE.

SETUP: This live event will be live-streamed on the platform Vimeo and is professionally produced in Washington, D.C. 

  • Technically akin to showing a YouTube video, this Film Festival will be streamed live from 12 to 2 PM ET on Wednesday, October 20th. 
  • Each individual school or classroom can determine the best viewing setting to suit their needs. 
  • A media specialist or Media Lab teacher will be helpful, but any teacher who has experience casting video from a laptop or desktop onto a larger display screen for group viewing will be able to host this film festival. Specific tech guidance appears below. 
  • The first step is to coordinate with your school’s administration and your fellow teachers to reserve the two-hour time period and determine how many students will be assembled together to view the production. 
  • Next, it is advisable to consider how you can facilitate a film festival atmosphere in the classroom or reserve your auditorium, library, or other suitable location well in advance. 
  • A screen with good sound capability is ideal, whether that be a television in a classroom or media lab, a projection screen in a media lab or auditorium, or an interactive whiteboard like a Smart Board. 
  • Feel free to contact The Better Angels Society at the email address below if you or anyone at your school has any questions about the film festival display.
  • Finally, preparing for the festival can include class discussions related to the power of good storytelling, viewing or assigning for home viewing professional history documentary films, the role filmmaking and film festivals play within American culture, professional film award programs, and how history (especially archival history experienced through the medium of film) is like time travel. If you have any questions about how to use this event to facilitate discussions on any of these topics, please feel free to reach out to us at the email below.

SPECIFICATIONS: In addition to the above setup, our production team would like for us to make you aware of the following technical requirements for this broadcast:

  • Ensure that your playback device is plugged into a hardline internet connection during the entire length of the stream. Learn more.
  • Turn on the highest resolution setting possible (1080p) to ensure that the audience is getting the best quality video. Learn more.

Ensure that the playback device that is broadcasting the stream does not have any issues with displaying Vimeo content due to firewalls. Our production team recommends using Google Chrome as a web browser to stream the Vimeo broadcast as sometimes folks will have trouble when using other browsers like Safari.

What if my class doesn't have the time to watch the full two-hour event?

The first half of this event (12-1 PM ET) will be dedicated to middle school filmmakers and their films and the second half (1-2 PM ET) to high school filmmakers and their films. If your class is unable to attend the full two-hour event, we strongly encourage you to sign up for as much of the event as your classtime can accommodate. The full event, as well as its constituent parts, will be made available after the live event but registering now is key to ensuring that we provide you with any and all recordings of the event. Additionally, joining the live event is the only way to ask questions directly of the filmmakers and to provide your class with the full educational experience that the film festival provides.

Who should I contact if I have questions about signing up for these events or about putting them on at my school?
If you have any questions about these events and how they can organized at your school, please reach out to the Deputy Director of the Next Generation Angels Awards program, Lawrence Simon, by email at and he will be happy to work with you to assist you in making this event possible for your school.

Should I share information about these events with teachers and educators in my area?
Please do! We would love to have as many students and educators attend these events as possible. Please feel free to share this website and the information on it with any educators in your area or that you may know to get them interested in attending. Please feel free to contact the email above as well if you’d like informational documents about these events that can be widely shared.

​​​​​​​Where can I view the 2021 winners’ videos?
Anyone interested in viewing this year’s prize-winning films can find them at the main Swoogo webpage, as well as on The Better Angels Society’s website here.

Can homeschooled students or students being educated outside of a traditional classroom setting attend these events?
Thanks to the virtual nature of these events, anyone interested in attending can view them as long as they have a screen with the ability to view Zoom events and Vimeo videos. This includes homeschooled students and any student or teacher operating in an alternate setting.

Will these events be made available to watch a later date?
These events will be recorded and made available to anyone wishing to view them at a later date. The Better Angels Society and National History Day will make sure to share them with those in their networks, as well as with any teacher that has signed up for the event or reached out directly to request to view them. But to make sure that you and your students get the best, most immediate experience possible, we highly recommend tuning into the live event on October 20th!

Will there be closed captioning for these events?
The platforms that are hosting both of these events will have live closed captioning available to ensure that all audiences are able to participate and enjoy the event. If you have any questions about accessibility for the film festival, please let us know.