March 09, 2004

More than 15 schools to participate in history fair

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Take time to view the region's rich history at the annual Southern Illinois Regional History Fair later this month at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. More than 15 schools are expected to participate.

The fair is Saturday, March 20, at the SIU Arena. Admission is free and the public is invited.

The fair begins at 9 a.m., and closing ceremonies and the awards presentation begin at 2 p.m. The exhibits are closed to the public from 9:30 a.m. to noon for judging. Visitors may tour the exhibition from noon to 3 p.m.

More than 400 students - in grades 7 through 12 - from as far away as Belleville, Collinsville, Breese and Mount Vernon are expected to compete, said Michael C. Batinski, an SIUC history professor who helps organize the event.

The competitors are divided into junior high and high school divisions.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and TV crews are encouraged to cover the fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 20, in the SIU Arena. For background information on location, look for SIUC History Department Chair Marjorie Morgan. Media wanting to view a dramatic performance should contact Michael C. Batinski prior to the event at 618/453-7862.

Southern Illinois' regional fair is the most successful of the regional fairs in the state, said Batinski. He finds a great deal of public interest in the region's history.

"We see a lot of grassroots interest in the fair," he said. "Several of the schools have their own fairs before they send the exhibits to the regional fair and there is a lot of community involvement."

Schools throughout the state are broken into four regions. Outside of Chicago, the southern region fair is the largest, said Batinksi.

Subjects of past exhibits include infamous Southern Illinois gangster Charlie Birger, the Lewis and Clark expedition, former Gov. George Ryan's death penalty moratorium, and the Civil Rights movement in Carbondale.

Many area teachers are actively involved and committed to the project, said Batinkski. Students and teachers regularly begin working on projects by mid-October.

"I am really impressed by the dedication of the teachers who go through this and sign up to do it again, and again and again," he said.

The fair gives the public the understanding "how much work is being done by teachers and students and what is going on in the classroom," he said.

Students choose to showcase their projects through several areas. This year there are about 75 written research papers in addition to numerous visual displays and theatrical-style performances.

Dramatic performance competition involves researching events from the state's historic past and writing scripts. Previous performance entries have included the March 1925 Tri-State tornado based upon survivor interviews.

Media presentations involve using videotape, slide shows or a computer documentary in an audio-visual presentation.

Students earning superior scores advance to the state championships in Springfield in early May. Winners there then advance to the National History Day competition in mid-June in College Park, Md. at the University of Maryland.

The department works to establish better working professional relations with the region's public and parochial school teachers, including continuing education programs. In addition, the fair gives students a chance to become acquainted with campus, Batinksi said.

The fair is coordinated by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency, and has been supported by SIUC's Department of History for more than 10 years.

Providing community outreach is among the goals of Southern@150, the long-range blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Participating schools include:

Anna-Jonesboro High School; Belleville West High School; All Saints Academy, Breese; Breese Elementary School, Breese, Lick Creek Grade School, BuncombeCarbondale Community High School; Carbondale Middle School; Giant City Grade School, Carbondale; Unity Point Grade School; CarbondaleCobden Junior High; Good Shepherd Lutheran School, Collinsville; Booth School, Enfield; DeSoto Grade School, DeSoto; Jasper Community School District, Fairfield; Mount Verno