March 20, 2012

History fair attracts record number of schools

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A record number of high schools will come to Southern Illinois University Carbondale this Saturday, March 24, for the Illinois History Fair, Southern Region.

The University hosts the event for high schools and junior high schools in the 33 counties of the Southern Region.  All events and exhibits will be in the Student Center.

Jo Ann E. Argersinger, SIU Carbondale history professor and coordinator of the fair, said the event has grown every year for at least the past several years, attracting more schools, more teachers and more students.  This year, individual students and groups of students submitted approximately 180 projects, including 10 performances.

The project categories include research papers, museum-style display exhibits, dramatic performances or representations of individuals or events, computer-based media presentations, and, new this year, web sites.  The web sites are a collection of web pages presenting primary and secondary source material, interactive multimedia and historical analysis.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the Southern Illinois Regional History Fair on March 24 in the Student Center. Those who wish to speak with teachers and students as they make final preparations on their projects can contact Jo Ann E. Argersinger for participating schools in your target area. She may be reached at or at 618/453-3380.

“The benefits of this kind of creative research are becoming better known and appreciated,” Argersinger said.  “Indeed, as more studies suggest, the importance of students conducting their own original research enables them to succeed in a variety of fields.  It sharpens their analytical abilities and helps them become more precise and clear in their thinking and writing.”

Hosting the fair at SIU Carbondale also helps the graduate history students, she said.  Graduate students help evaluate the exhibits, and they also have the opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with the fresh viewpoints of younger students for whom historical analysis is still very new.

Students who excel at the regional level may go on to the Illinois History Expo, held this year on May 3 in Springfield.  From there, top entries may participate in National History Day in College Park, Md., in June.

This year’s national theme is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.”  Students who want to compete at the national level select a state topic related to the national theme.

Argersinger noted that participation in the history fair often means extra work for the teachers involved.  She added that Southern Illinois is fortunate in how many teachers are willing to undertake the extra effort for the reward of engaging their students early in historical research.