By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County students tackled a wide range of social studies topics this year -- from how Adolf Hitler caused the holocaust, to the mysteries of Stonehenge, to whether the world will end with the conclusion of the Mayan calendar in 2012.
The county's social studies fair will be open to the public today (Saturday), from 1 p.m., to 2 p.m., at Kendrick Middle School, which is located at 7971 Kendrick Road, in Jonesboro. Prior to the public portion of the fair, judges will spend three hours evaluating the 103 projects entered in the county-wide event.
Entrants were allowed to set up their projects at the school on Friday night.
"This is the culmination of all the school fairs that were held early this [school year]," said Clayton Schools Coordinator of Secondary Social Studies Michael Powell. "The 103 projects here represent the winners of those school fairs."
The winners of Saturday's Clayton County Social Studies Fair will advance to the Georgia Council for the Social Studies' regional fair, which will be held on March 5 and 6, also at Kendrick Middle School, according to Powell. There will be winners for each grade-level classification, in each of the social studies disciplines, including history, political science, anthropology, sociology/social psychology, economics and psychology.
According to the Georgia Council for the Social Studies' fair guide, the grade level classifications are grades 5 and 6 (Class I); grades 7 and 8 (Class II); Grades 9 and 10 (Class III), and grades 11 and 12 (Class IV).
"We have a lot of projects dealing with the current economic situation," Powell said. "There are things dealing with the president, like 'Is Afghanistan going to be his Vietnam?' It really runs the spectrum, in terms of the disciplines."
As they set up their projects on Friday, several entrants in the Clayton County Social Studies Fair took time to explain their topics, and what research they did.
M.D. Roberts Middle School eighth-graders, Ayodele Dare and Ted Nguyen, both 13, did a project called, "Vietnam War: America's Decision," on President Richard Nixon's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam in the 1970's. They said they chose their topic because of the current debate over the war in Afghanistan, and because Nguyen's family moved to the U.S., from Vietnam, after the Vietnam War.
"We came to the conclusion that Nixon was stupid for pulling U.S. troops out of Vietnam," Nguyen said. "We were practically winning the war, but he did Vietnamization, and decided to pull out, instead, which I think is stupid."
Dare added, "America can't always win a war without bloodshed ... for either side."
Lake Ridge Elementary School fifth-grader, Ashley Butler, 11, did her project on the Cherokee Indians, because of personal ties to the Native-American tribe.
"I found out some of my ancestors were Cherokee Indians when I was looking at a video of my family's history at Thanksgiving," she said. "I found out what kind of houses they lived in, how they hunted, and the different types of things they did [in Georgia]. I thought it was surprising."
M.D. Roberts Middle School seventh-grader, William Maben, 13, did his project on the influence religion had on society during the middle ages. For his model, he created a three-foot-tall replica of a cathedral, made out of cardboard.
"My hypothesis was that religion impacted society a lot," Maben said. "I learned religion actually had a lot of influence during the medieval ages. There were crusades, which were wars fought between the Christians and the Muslims over who would control the Holy Land ... During the Roman empire, the Romans spent so much money on their military to keep the barbarians out, but that eventually failed. "When the barbarians took over, they didn't know how to act, so they started to rely on their churches."
Participants will be graded on a 100-point scale. Powell said the oral presentation will consist of 10 of those points, while 30 points are for the written essay, another 30 points are for the methodology used by the entrant; 25 points are set aside for visual elements, such as models, and five points are for how the entrant developed the question they looked at in their project.
The Georgia Council for the Social Studies State-wide Fair will be held March 20, at Dutchtown High School, in Hampton.