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U of M hosts state history competition

Middle, high school students to present on ‘debate and diplomacy in history’

By Timberly Moore
On March 4, 2011

  • The University of Memphis is considering building a new Recreation and Fitness Center. Focus groups are being held to gauge students’ interest and opinions. Photo by Jonathan Capriel | Staff

Tomorrow, local middle and high school students will descend on The University of Memphis to flaunt their creativity and knowledge of U.S. history.

The U of M will host the annual West Tennessee History Day district competition in the University Center on Saturday beginning at 7 a.m.

"Its like the science fair of history," said Emily Schwimmer, graduate history student and assistant coordinator for the event, part of the National History Day competition.

Participants will present projects, papers, documentaries, exhibits, performances and websites on the theme "debate and diplomacy in history" for adjudication.

Winners on Saturday will go to the state competition in Nashville to compete for a spot in the national competition, which will be held at the University of Maryland.

The grand prize at the national competition is a $30,000 scholarship.

Angela Martin, graduate student and assistant coordinator, said that she has coordinated the event since 2007 and has also judged in the past.

"My favorite category to judge was the performance category," said Martin. "You really get to see creativity in its purest form."

She said that one group from Memphis City Schools advanced all the way to nationals in the performance category with their piece on the cotton gin.

"They did a wonderful job on their performance, which they looked at from the position of slaves and how the cotton gin affected the slaves."

Maurice Crouse, history professor, has been judging the district competition since it first started in the 1980s. He originally started judging in the research paper and exhibit categories.

"The papers are usually 10 to 15 pages long. We don't expect more than that from them because they are just middle and high school students."

This year Crouse will judge the website portion of the competition. He said that while he will pay attention to the attractiveness of websites, looks aren't everything.

"I look for content, whether it has it has anything to do with the theme and, of course, accuracy," said Crouse.

Crouse said that the judges get a checklist for each category that assigns weight to each component.

He said that 60 percent of the website category is judged on historical quality, and the other 40 percent comes from relation to the theme and clarity of the presentation.

Martin said that the competition is extremely important in the history field.

"I think this is one of the greatest programs nationwide in the social sciences (arena)."

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