Powell represents county in state history competition

Published April 5, 2007

Coming off strong finishes in the district History Fair competition, four Powell Middle School students are preparing for battle in the state competition next month.

Eighth-graders Christie Bretagna, Hunter Beals, Gregory Kinney and Charlotte Robinson will represent Hernando County in Tallahassee May 4 and 5.

Powell's coordinator, Melissa White, said the History Fair brings the idea of historical significance to students of all ages. It's so important from the point of view of educators, she said, that all students at Powell were required to do a project on the fair's theme, "Triumph from Tragedy."

After receiving grades on their projects, students could choose to enter their work in the fair and many at all five middle schools did. Last year, Hernando County sent three winners to state. The year before, according to district coordinator Suzanne Miranda, there were 10.

Thirty-four children in all will present their work at the state History Fair, vying with students from 67 Florida counties.

About 110 Hernando County kids placed first through fourth with their local efforts, but only first and second place winners move on to state.

Christie and Hunter won first place in their division with a group display board on the Columbine tragedy. Gregory took top honors with a thematic essay on baseball great Jackie Robinson.

Charlotte won with an unusual modern dance routine depicting a famous Russian ballerina's struggle.

Miranda has worked on the fair for over 10 years. She says it began as a project of history educator David Van Tassel in Ohio to make history come alive for students.

Each year, participants create a written, oral or performed presentation on a theme chosen by the History Fair committee. They create their presentation without adult assistance and present it to students at their own school.

"Going to all the levels is expensive," Miranda said. "We're fortunate here because years ago the district had the foresight to include it in the budget. It's a struggle to make sure we have enough resources."

Various local businesses and organizations contribute money, time and encouragement - they also provide memorabilia, first-person resources, anecdotes and art.

"As district coordinator, I've had so much enjoyment hooking kids up with interviews and resources. It's a neat program," Miranda said.

White said the fair makes students think more deeply about history.

"They need to figure out not only what happened in a particular historic event, but why it happened and how it affected people. They have to use research and writing skills beyond the everyday," she said.