Baylor shows heart for history with fair Friday

A display about the Grey Ranks, an underground Polish paramilitary group that opposed the Third Reich during the Second World War, sits in the Bill Daniel Student Center. Darby Good | News Editor

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

The Heart of Texas Regional History Fair will return to Baylor Friday, hosting the event that has been held for more than 30 years.

The fair is sponsored by the Texas Collection at Carroll Library and will be held in the Bill Daniel Student Center. It is a non-ticketed event with free admission to the public. Judging will begin around 9 a.m.

Students from fifth to 12th grade can participate with project mediums ranging from papers to websites, performances, documentaries and exhibits.

There are three categories at the regional level, the youngest being the fifth-grade contestants who will not advance in the competition, but will instead have a way to get familiar with the competition. There is the junior category, which includes students in sixth through eighth grades and finally the seniors in ninth through 12th grades.

Rachel DeShong, special event coordinator and map curator, works in the Texas Collection and helps organize the annual history fair.

“Since 1986, Baylor has always been associated with [the fair]. It was its own thing for while in association with Baylor, though, a lot of Baylor staff are the ones who pushed to get it started,” DeShong said. “Over the years, it has evolved to where Baylor has put it under its wing. So we’re an official department at Baylor.”

The first and second place in each category advance to state Texas History Day. The first and second-place finishers at state will then advance to the national competition which has participation from all 50 states and overseas territories.

The Heart of Texas Regional History Fair has sent participants to nationals since 1998.

Each year a theme is set in place for the fair. This year, it is breaking barriers in history, which could be a physical barrier or cultural barrier.

“Anyway that the kids can connect it, so they can pick any topic they want in history as long as it meets the theme,” DeShong said. “It’s pretty open, so we get lots of diverse topics all over the place.”

The idea of the fair is to teach the students to distinguish between primary and secondary sources, and conduct primary source research. DeShong said it is also a good opportunity for students to learn what plagiarism looks like too.

“This is also a really good learning opportunity, because we touch on plagiarism, for them to engage with sources and historical research in a different way.”

There are around 60 judges, many of them Baylor professors and graduate students. The Waco Museum community and library employees volunteer to judge too.

Steven Sielaff, president of the board of trustees for the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair, has been on the board since 2013 and has been president for three years. He got engaged with the fair as a Baylor undergraduate judge.

“It is a very Baylor heavy fair. A lot of the judges are faculty, staff and graduate students on campus. Other judges are from the community, but most judges are the Baylor family,” Sielaff said.

The presentations are open for those interested to look at the exhibits in the Barfield drawing room exhibit hall before they are closed off for judging.