Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gray hair and bow ties at National History Day in Pennsylvania 2012

Note to anyone reading this blog - until now this has been strictly a training and race blog. I plan to add posts about other stuff starting today. For those of you used to reading about 'other stuff' on Dave and Paula's Road Trip, that blog still exists. I'll post our joint ventures there.

Gray hair and bow ties were everywhere as the judges gathered for day 1 of National History Day in Pennsylvania. I was there with my brother Thomas and sister Meg for the state competition. I had the gray hair of course and I'm tempted to wear a bow tie next time.

I was assigned to Junior Individual Exhibits for day 1. My partner and I were to judge about a dozen exhibits created by 6-7-8 graders. This year's theme was "Revolution, Reaction and Reform". Students had to include at least one of those in their project. The purpose was to choice an event or issue and relate it to the theme. Students were encouraged to research their selected event or issue and draw conclusions about the theme and present it. In the first round we interviewed the students although the exhibits should stand alone in communicating the theme.

Our goal on this first day was to select 3 exhibits to go to run-offs on day two where they would be viewed with three others from the same category. The first and second place exhibits after day 2 qualify for the National Championships in Washington, DC in June.

We saw some interesting stuff. Several of them although really well done were nothing more than a presentation of the history of the event or issue the student chose there was no real conclusion about the theme. Those were easy to elminate from contention. Truthfully the top three were not that hard to distinguish either. The hardest part of the competition as a judge is having to provide constructive criticism. They worked so hard it's tough to say anyting but positive things. Still if they want to go on to Nationals or try again next year they need to know.

On day two of the competition I judged run offs in Senior Group Documentary. It's amazing what these kids (9-12 grade) can do with technology. Our role this day was to rank the 6 finalists in order. The first two go to Nationals. Our choice for first place was "The Revolutionary Electric Guitar: The Sound that Changed the World".

This is a clear case of you have to approach these things with an open mind. The title sounds like a real stretch. The three kids who produced the documentary did a great job though of relating it to the theme. The demonstrated how the evolution of the guitar from acoustic to electric bridged race and cultural gaps in society over the years. It was clever and well done.

On a personal note, Cara, my brothers second daughter placed second in Senior Individual Performace earning her a spot at the National Competition.

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