World-famous inventors, 19th-century British royalty, pop culture icons, superstar athletes, legendary actors — those were just a few of the notable figures on hand Tuesday at the Buckeye Valley Middle School biography fair.
The annual event, now in its 21st year, showcases the research skills and creative talents of BVMS sixth-grade students. Each student is required to do a project, which involves researching their chosen subject, writing a paper about that person, compiling a timeline to accompany the research, and then dressing up as the person on the day of the presentation.
Students are also required to compare and contrast two research sources they utilized, offer reasons about why they admire the person and provide a vital statistics chart about their subject. Some students are also asked to provide a “dinner conversation” between themselves and the person they’ve chosen and two other other people.
Language arts teacher Kim Brown said there is a high level of excitement among the students, especially on the day of the fair.
“It’s the culmination of all the hard work,” Brown said. “It’s a big struggle. When they start putting it together, it’s just a neat project. They really understand the person they researched really well. That’s the big take-away from it. They come back and they know everything pretty much about that person.”
The diversity of the figures chosen by the students was broad, ranging from Shawnee tribal leader Tecumseh to British monarch Queen Victoria. Norah Rhoades chose Tecumseh as her subject. She was inspired after seeing the outdoor drama about his life in Chillicothe.
“I found him very interesting,” Rhoades said. “He was very determined to keep his homeland from the Americans. He was also very brave and very wise. He could predict the future a lot of the time. It was very cool. I realize that I have the power to change things, too, and he’s helped me see that.”
A public figure who is definitely no stranger to central Ohioans was the person Gabby Kuebler chose to research. She portrayed Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo. Kuebler said she picked Hanna because she also has a passion for animals. She said her research into Hanna’s life and career has expanded her horizons.
“I realized there are different ways to search about things,” she said. “I found a lot of new websites with information about more people, too, so if I want to do other projects on other people.”
Tyler Fenstermaker selected Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, for his biography fair project. An aspiring inventor himself, Fenstermaker said Bell has become his new role model and he learned a valuable lesson from Bell’s life and work.
“The most important thing I learned about Alexander Graham Bell is that he never, ever gave up,” said Fenstermaker. “That was one of his great mottoes. If you fail, try, try again, which I think is a very important lesson for me. I will use that to succeed in life.”
Cierra Schneller, who plays clarinet in the BVMS band and sings in the choir, researched silent film icon Charlie Chaplin for her project. She said Chaplin’s rise to fame from humble beginnings spurred her interest in studying his life.
“I admired him because he went from rags to riches, because he was very poor and became rich and famous,” she said.
For the teachers involved with the biography fair, their reward is found in the achievement of the students.
“It’s really fun to see the transformation from the beginning to the end,” said Nicole Ellwood, a social studies teacher at BVMS. “It’s really great to see them research the people and put all of their thoughts together and work through that process, and then be able to talk about it to the judges. It’s great to see them develop those speaking and listening skills and eye contact. It’s neat to see them all come together. It makes me proud.”
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.