Saturday, May 4, 2013

Random Musings about State History Day Weekend 2013

Whew! I'm exhausted! It's all good though. And just in case you get bored before getting to the end of this long post let me say now that if you have a chance to promote or participate in NHD in your local school district or state I highly recommend it. You don't need any special training or background. I was a general science major in college. I enjoy history but I'm not all that great at it. In fact, I learn a lot at these competitions. All you need is enthusiasm and a desire to see kids succeed in something THEY love.

Ok on to the weekend.

After work on Thursday I drove to my brother and sister in law's house in Akron, PA. My brother and I would be judging in the National History Day in PA on Friday and Saturday. The competition is held at Cumberland Valley High School (CVHS) and it's just easier to go to The Gormley's first. This is my second year working this event and Thomas's 4th (I think). My sister Meg has been there for two years but had a conflict this year. She plays a large variety of musical instruments in local theaters. The Gormley's first got involved in it when Carolyn (Cara) entered I think 6 years ago? This year Cara would be in the Senior (GRADE 9-12) Individual Performance in which she tells the story of Nathaniel Bowditch and his contributions to modern navigation. Her sisters, Elizabeth (Bippy) and Kimberly (Kim) were entered in the Junior (Grade 6-8) Group Performance category in which they told the story of Lewis and Clark. Each had won their regional competition back in March to earn their spots this weekend.

Thomas and I arrived at CVHS at 10 a.m. for orientation, to meet our fellow judges and lunch. The rest of the family would arrive later in time for the girls' performances. On day one I was assigned to judge Junior Group exhibits with two other judges. I found out upon arrival that I had been made team captain. This is simply by default as my two partners were only in their first year of judging. This was my second. The whole judging thing intimidates me a little but being thrust in this position made me suck it up and act like I knew what I was doing. "Fake it, till you make it", right? My partners were Rich who works for the PA Dept of Education and is retiring in two months and Maryann who after raising her family (she was a very young mother) joined the Army and now works at the War College in Carlisle. Both were very interesting and I was glad to meet them.

Sitting at our table for lunch this first day was Catherine Gorn, Executive Director for the National History Day Program. It was neat to meet her. The NHD program won the 2011 National Humanities Medal and Dr. Gorn accepted the medal on behalf of NHD at a reception at the White House. She told us - we asked - about the visit. Dr. Gorn is shorter than me. I'm barely 5'2". She said she wore here highest heels and still the President and Mrs Obama towered over her. She was embarrassed that when the President greeted her and said "How are you?" all she could think to say was "I'm really nervous right now". This prompted the President to give her a hug. Like THAT helped. LOL Here is a photo of that Dr. Gorn is a lovely person. I enjoyed meeting her and it was a treat for the children to have her there this weekend.

So off to judging. My partners and I viewed 16 exhibits created by groups of 6-8 graders from around the state. We had to pick three. Another team was evaluating 16 others and their top 3 and our top 3 would move on to run offs. This is soooo hard. First off how do you tell 13 groups (not face to face but still) that all their hard work wasn't enough. Well basically you don't. We pick the top three (or 6 as it were) and evaluate all of them with as much constructive criticism as we can. Many of these children enter multiple years in a row.

To judge exhibits we get an hour to view them alone without the children (that's just under 4 minutes per exhibit) Then, one group at a time, at 15 minute intervals we meet with the kids so they can tell us about their exhibit and answer our questions. One question we asked each group was how did they come up with their topic. Two young ladies told us that their project started out as a joke yet here they were at the state competition. Their subject was the toilet. They didn't quite make the connection to this year's contest theme "Turning Points in History" but it was a clever exhibit; shaped like an outhouse with various historical pictures and items. One item was a bowl shaped object that one of their aunts had purchased at a flea market thinking it was a casserole dish until someone informed her it was actually an chamber pot! We had a good chuckle over that. Two young men did an exhibit on Charlie Chaplin because, they said, one of them liked music and the other liked to act and it worked for them. They didn't quite make the connection to the theme either but they did have some good historical research. Another exhibit was on the telephone because the young ladies told us "Mom said we spend so much time on the phone we might as well learn about it". Our three choices to move forward were exhibits on "The Berlin Wall", "Valley Forge", and "Jonas Salk's Polio Vaccine". Each of these came closest to capturing and demonstrating the theme. "Jonas Salk..." ended up taking overall first place for the weekend.

Day one is a very long one. Thomas and I did not get to our hotel until close to 9 PM. We took an elevator with three other people to our rooms. I HATE elevators but I was tired and going with the flow. We get in and it doesn't move right away. Great :(. "What floor are you on?" I asked Thomas. "Three", he replied. I was on 4. "Great, I'm getting off with you and walking up". At 3 the elevator stuttered for a looooong time before the doors opened. I was first off and headed for the stairs. Sheesh! I walked down to breakfast in the morning. :)

Today was run off day. My judging category for this was Senior Group Documentaries. I and two different judges looked at the 6 top documentaries selected yesterday and after watching them ranked them in order 1-6. The top two go to the national competition in June and 3 is on standby in case one of them can't make it. We don't get to interview the kids in this round so it's not quite as much fun. Although it's easier because we do not have to provide ratings on each section just comments and ranking 1-6. Yes, it's subjective but in my experience so far the top rated one usually blows away the competition so it's easy to choose.

I completed my judging tasks by 10:30 and the awards ceremony doesn't start until 2:00. Since Carolyn had made it to run offs I decided to stick around for that. (Bippy and Kim did not make it past round one. They will be back next year I'm sure). I decided to kill time by first going to get gas which at $3.22 was about 23 cents/gallon cheaper than at home! Then I went for a walk around the CVHS complex which is huge. It was a gorgeous day and I found the cross country trail which was very conveniently marked with big blue and white signs "XC". I followed it in both directions around the campus and off into a nice wooded area. I was surprised that I didn't see any walkers or runners there. If this were near my home..... :) Not that we don't have lots of trails where I live but can you really have enough? Maybe next year I'll bring my running gear.

I walked the trail today since a) I didn't have running gear/sneakers and b) doc said not to run, duh! I tried not to think about the not running thing but that was next to impossible. I won't share my thoughts because quite frankly it's too early to really have any realistic thoughts until I see the doc on Tuesday. The course was beautiful and the day equally so. It was a very refreshing and restorative walk. I returned to the school campus just in time to help Thomas help the organizers get cleaned up so that they could leave quickly after the award ceremony.

When the announce the top three in each category they tell the school and the school district. We do not know this information when judge. We only know the children's names. I learned that one of the documentaries that my judging group picked to move on to Nationals is from the local high school here (Penncrest). I didn't know they participated. I'll have to check that out and see if I can help at the local regional competition. Carolyn took second in her category and will be returning to Nationals in June. Very exciting for her and the family.

I had a lovely - non-turnpike - drive home and now I'm ready to veg. The only thing I wish was different about this weekend is that I had remembered to bring the camera.

Cara, I know you are reading this. Congratulations!! Love, Aunt Paula,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! Glad you had a good time! Hope you'll be back to running soon.