Weather forecast cuts National History Day attendance by two-thirds

Saturday, March 8, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Koehler, right, took down her project on the Six-Day War with the help of her mother, Stephanie, at the end of the National History Day in Cape Girardeau. Elizabeth attends Cape Christian School.

Paul Arnold was worried about the impending storm and what it could mean to his students' participation in National History Day.

So Thursday night he slept on a cot in his classroom, eliminating the chance he wouldn't be able to make the drive to school from his rural home.

"The bottom line is that these kids have been working on their projects since September. I couldn't stand for them not to be able to go," the Bloomfield, Mo., junior high teacher said.

His students awoke Friday to a snow day, and buses to the competition at Southeast Missouri State University were canceled. At 5:30 a.m. Arnold started calling parents, arranging an eight-vehicle caravan to transport the 24 students to Cape Girardeau.

The one-hour drive took them an hour and a half with the snow, but they arrived in time for the contest. Overall, only about a third of the 500 students expected arrived, according to Dr. Joel Rhodes, coordinator of the event and an associate professor of history at Southeast. He said organizers decided earlier in the week they would continue with the competition if Southeast remained open.

The competition attracts junior and high school students from 19 counties in Southeast Missouri. Students compete in five categories: exhibit, where information about a selected topic is displayed on a board; media, which includes documentaries; performances, such as skits; historical papers; or Web sites. The top three finishers in each category will advance to the state National History Day competition April 12 in Columbia, Mo.

The overall first-place winner was Macy Ellsworth, of Gideon High School, for the project "A Well Paid Slave." Ellsworth won a scholarship to Southeast Missouri State University. The Risco School District won the sweepstakes trophy for having the most winning entries. And two of Arnold's students, Lychia Graviett and Caitelyn Salazar, won Outstanding Regional History Project 2008 for the project "The Birth of the Stars and Stripes Newspaper."

Because of the weather, an awards ceremony was canceled and the competition wrapped up about an hour early. Rhodes said he was impressed by the perseverance of students and teachers in attending. A group of students from Risco spent Thursday night in a Cape Girardeau hotel so they could be present Friday.

The theme of the competition was "Conflict and Compromise in History."

"The real chores, the real key is to take the top and answer the 'so what' question. What is significant about it?" Rhodes said. He said Rosa Parks was a popular topic this year.

Rebekah Northern and Katlyn Leiendecker dressed in floor-length dresses to present a skit about the 47-day siege of Vicksburg, Miss., during the Civil War. Other topics included the civil rights movement in Cairo, Ill., the Salem Witch Trials, and World War II battles.

335-6611, extension 123

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