By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Eighth-grader Katie Sticklen said she had no idea that a 40-year-old piece of legislation called Title IX was what guarantees her right to play volleyball and basketball at South Middle School in Joplin.
At least not until she started researching the law as a topic for History Day.
“Sports are my life, and without sports, I don’t know where I’d be,” said Sticklen, whose History Day entry this year was a 10-minute documentary about Title IX that she produced with a classmate. “We just kind of knew we wanted to do that (as a topic) because we’ve gotten to experience what Title IX has given us.”
More than 160 entries were on display Friday in this year’s regional History Day competition, which was held at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. Students from Joplin, Carthage, Mount Vernon, Neosho, Sarcoxie, Seneca and Wheaton participated.
The theme of this year’s competition was “Turning Points in History: People, Events, Ideas.” Students presented their research as a paper, exhibit, performance, documentary or website.
Kendall Vowels and Jewell Hicks, also eighth-graders at South, dressed as park rangers for their performance and gave their audience a tour of Yellowstone National Park. They emphasized the 1871 expedition of geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, which played a large role in the eventual congressional designation of Yellowstone as a national park, they said.
“I didn’t really know about the Hayden expedition until we started researching,” Hicks said. “To have such an impact, creating the first national park — that’s a cool thing.”
Ivan Obert, who teaches gifted education at South, requires his students to participate in History Day — although most don’t need any persuasion, he said.
“They eat this up,” he said. “Most of them love to compete, and they can go so far with this. I’ve really challenged them this year, and they’ve stepped up to the challenge.”
Obert said studies have suggested that students who compete at History Day perform better on standardized and other forms of testing. He also said the competition teaches them how to research and helps them improve their public speaking skills.
Alec Fehring, a sophomore at Neosho Christian School, said he was a little nervous as the judges approached his exhibit about the Marshall Plan, the U.S.-sponsored program of aid to Europe after World War II.
“But they’re not here to make fun of you,” he said of the judges. “They’re here to build you up and help you improve.”
Fehring said that in addition to building his exhibit — and painting on it a flag of each of the countries affected by the Marshall Plan — he enjoys teaching others what he has learned about his subject.
“I just love showing people the significance of a topic that they may not be familiar with, and lay out how it may pertain to them and how it changed history,” he said.
Hannah Jones, a freshman at Neosho Christian School and a first-time participant in History Day, created an exhibit about the influenza epidemic of 1918. Like many other History Day participants, she said she had worked on her project since the beginning of the school year in August and had put in too many hours to count.
“I learned when you want to accomplish something, you can’t just halfheartedly do it,” she said. “You have to give the effort. When you push forward, it’s gratifying.”
Showing a competitive side, Jones said she was already starting to think about her next project.
“After seeing others’ exhibits, I know I want to take it up a notch,” she said.
Winners from Friday’s competition will have the chance to compete April 20 at National History Day in Missouri, held at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Winners from the state competition will advance to the National History Day contest, which is held in June in College Park, Md.