Nine Lenoir City High School students took home first-, second- and third-place titles recently during the 19th annual East Tennessee History Day regional competition at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
The competition hosted 356 students in grades 6-12 from 11 counties in East Tennessee. More than 100 judges looked over 200 projects in 2 1/2 hours. This year’s theme was “Breaking Barriers in History,” Lisa Oakley, curator of education for the East Tennessee Historical Society, said.
Students can choose to compete as individuals or in groups of no more than five. Oakley said five categories were available for projects, including creating an exhibit, putting on a performance, filming a documentary, writing a paper and developing a website.
“The kids are pretty wide open as far as what they can choose as long as they can tie it to a historical topic that deals with breaking a barrier and explain how that is an example of breaking a barrier,” Rachel Frazier, LCHS history teacher, said. “… It’s interesting to see what the kids choose. I always encourage them to choose a topic that they are interested in.”
Frazier is no stranger to History Day. Last year, she was awarded Tennessee’s National History Day secondary educator of the year.
This year, Frazier had the 11th-grade students in her AP United States History class create projects as class assignments. From those projects, Frazier chose which were going to be presented at the regional competition.
Many students in the competition began preparing as early as September. LCHS students, however, do not have the same extended period of time to work on their projects.
“Most schools that are yearlong that do this start in September or October,” Frazier said. “But because we’re on block schedule, and I don’t have those students until the second semester, they don’t get the opportunity to start on their projects.”
Frazier gives students instructions prior to the spring semester so they can at least start thinking about a topic before really focusing on the project in January.
While the majority of LCHS participants were from Frazier’s AP class, there was one group of five freshmen that competed with a performance about the 19th Amendment and women’s suffrage. One of the boys in the group had competed at History Day in middle school and was eager to compete this year.
Students who place first and second move forward to the state competition. Third-place winners serve as alternatives.
The LCHS first-place winners were Lauren McCullough, Landin Brock, Philip-Joseph Marlino, Kylie LeQuire and Marissa LeQuire for their group performance and Greyson Halverson for her individual performance.
The second-place winner was Emily Meade for her individual website.
Third-place winners were Joy Echols for her individual exhibit and Mason Pafunda for his individual performance.
“They are now in the phase of making changes to send their projects on to the state competition, which is in the process of being judged right now because it’s virtual,” Oakley said. “They had to cancel the April 4 competition as far as face-to-face, but everything’s still going to be judged. At every level of the contest from the school level up, they get to be interviewed on their topic. They get to talk to scholars on their topic, and then they make changes to their (project) so there’s a lot of conversation that day.”
The projects are a learning experience for students and teachers.
“I learned about topics that I don’t know much about,” Frazier said. “So they’re kind of the experts and they’re teaching me. But then I’m just trying to ask them questions and sort of guide them in that way and get them thinking about different aspects of their topic more than anything, instead of just, you know, giving information because I want them to answer the questions and them to kind of seek out the information on their own.”
The day sees students full of nerves and excitement and offers a place to share research outside of the classroom.
“The regional competition is co-sponsored by the East Tennessee Historical Society and University of Tennessee Department of History,” Oakley said. “We are available to answer questions and to help folks locally if they want to become involved or find out more about it.”