Triumph and tragedy explored at SIU’s 19th annual history fair

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

Approximately 200 regional middle and high school students are expected to gather at the Student Center Saturday, March 23 for the 19th annual History Fair.

All students’ projects followed the annual National History Day theme “Triumph and Tragedy in History,” said to Natasha Zaretsky, a history professor and director of the event.

“They’re Illinois topics, for one thing, so there are certain topics that you can see recurring like the Chicago Fire, sports history [and] baseball history,” Zaretsky said.

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Some of the projects at the fair were about Emmett Till, John Deere, the first ferris wheel and even some about Fall Out Boy and Walt Disney.

Zaretsky said on top of having freedom of topics, students also have a variety of different ways they can present their projects to the judges.

“The trifold exhibits are super visual, and a lot of times students bring a lot of artistic talent and creativity to those,” Zaretsky said. “But then there are other students who are really web savvy, they’re aspiring videographers, or they’re into theater so doing a performance thing is really good for them.”

Zaretsky said she believes the freedom to create is a big reason students become so excited over their projects and history in general, and she hopes students who participate will pursue a degree in the field.

By entering into the event, no matter what format they use for the project, students have the chance to earn a superior title and travel to Springfield for the Illinois History Fair Expo. The winners of the state competition move on to the national History Fair in D.C.

“It’s really exciting, and we actually have had a handful [of students] over the years who end up going to nationals,” Zaretsky said.

Two students, Emily Kersten, a 14-year-old from Giant City Elementary and Julia Oberg, a 13-year-old from Giant City Elementary, earned superior titles with their trifold exhibit on the Rockford Peaches, an all-women professional baseball team.

“We found out a lot of information probably that we did not know,” Kersten said. “There was so much interesting stuff that when we started we didn’t expect to find out.”

Kersten and Oberg had been working on their project since November of last year, about four months of work.

“It really takes a lot of research and commitment. We spent a lot of days, weeks, months trying to put all of this information into an informative board and display,” Oberg said. “It’s really about choosing the right facts, what you want people to know about your project.”

Kersten said she believes history is a very important topic and everybody should be learning about it so history doesn’t repeat itself and we can understand how we got to this point.

“Putting yourself back where all these events were taking place, it’s kind of just mind blowing to think about it and it’s really hard because it’s nothing like it is today,” Oberg said.

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_DE.

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