PASSAGE 1 - Refer to this passage to answer questions 1 - 13.

A Vision of Success


1    A massive billboard in Times Square said it clearly: “Climbed Everest Blind. Vision. Pass It On.” Here in the hub of New York City, with more lights, people, and noise than anyone can imagine, an enormous photograph of Erik Weihenmayer, standing on top of the highest mountain peak in the world, looks out over the crowds below. This silent, isolatedmountaintop is a sharp contrast to the glittery setting for the billboard, but the message is strong and clear.

2     Erik Weihenmayer, the man in the photo, is one of the most accomplished athletes in the world. Despite losing his sight in his teens, Weihenmayer is the first blind person to summit Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. In September of 2002, he joined an elite group of less than one hundred people to climb to the top of all Seven Summits—the highest peaks on each of the seven continents in the world.

3     This former middle school teacher and wrestling coach was not born blind. He gradually began to lose his sight when he was a teenager. Like many people, at first he made excuses for not being able to see: the lights were too low, the sun was in his eyes, and the print in the book was too small. Finally, after he walked off a dock and ended up in a swamp, he was forced to admit the truth. He could not see.

4     Rather than dwell on things that he could not do, like play baseball, drive a car, or ride a bike, Weihenmayer began to focus on things he could do and could do well. A natural athlete, he became adept in wrestling and rock climbing.

5     When a climbing friend suggested that they try something more challenging than the desert hills they had been climbing, Weihenmayer suggested Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. In preparing for his first ascent to the 20,320-foot peak, Weihenmayer had to train extremely hard. He prepared for the climb by repeatedly running up and down the stairs in a 50-story building while wearing a 70-pound backpack.

6     When the time approached for the team to climb Mount McKinley, some minor adaptations had to be made for Weihenmayer. He found that by attaching small bells to the climber ahead of him, he could confidently follow without having to ask directions. In fresh snow, Weihenmayer used his poles to find the tracks the climbers in front of him had made and took care to step directly in their footprints. That was the easy part. When the team approached the final ridge, his climbing partners told him about the type of dangers they were facing. With a 9,000-foot drop to the right and a 1,000-foot drop to the left, one mistake along the narrow ridge at the top of the mountain could have been fatal. Through determination and skill, however, Weihenmayer made it safely up Mount McKinley andback down again.

7     Weihenmayer went on to climb Mount Everest. Many people thought it was too dangerous and foolish even to try. Others questioned how safe his climbing partners would feel. They wondered how Weihenmayer would be able to help them if their safety was in jeopardy. Actually, during the climb there was a time when he and a partner were caught in the dark and their headlamp failed. It was Weihenmayer who led his partner to safety, because he was the better climber in the dark.

8     In addition to his amazing athletic accomplishments, Weihenmayer is a successful author. He wrote Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye Can See, a memoir that chronicles the challenges to his success, both as a person who is blind and as an athlete.

9     These days, when Weihenmayer is not climbing, training, or spending time with his family, he speaks to audiences across the country. He encourages them to strive toward their goals no matter the difficulties that may come their way. He talks to people both blind and sighted about leadership, motivation, and teamwork. It is the same message reflected in the Times Square poster. According to Weihenmayer, “A vision is deeper than a goal, more complex. It’s where all your goals spring from. It’s how we see ourselves living our lives, serving other people; and what kind of legacy we want to leave behind.” Vision. Pass it on.

PASSAGE 2 - Refer to this flier to answer questions 14 -23.
Why Participate?

Understanding history is vital to understanding ourselves as a people and as a nation. History is much more than the study of dusty relics and events long past. It is an essential part of who we are today and who we will become. History shows us our progression from the past to the present and helps us build a better future. The History Fair Competition makes understanding history exciting, engaging, and fun!

All students who enter the Thornton competition have a chance to compete in the Virginia History Day District 8 Competition, Virginia History Day State Competition, and the National History Day Competition at the University of Maryland.

As further inducement, all entrants in the Thornton History Fair Competition have a chance to win a $50, $75, or $100 U.S. Savings Bond.

This Year’s Topic

All entries must address how agriculture, communication, or transportation technology has improved the quality of life for Americans. To many people, technology means computers, hand-held devices, or vehicles that travel to distant planets. However, technology is the application of scientific knowledge to solve a problem, so technology touches lives in countless ways. Individual middle school teachers will preview student topic proposals. Projects should focus on technology that may have become less commonly employed or even obsolete in its original form but has evolved into something that is still meaningful today.

Individual students or groups may enter one of the following categories:

Category Requirements

Exhibit: A traditional three-panel board presentation. Size is limited to 72” tall, 40” wide, and 30” deep. The exhibit should be freestanding. The student must be present during judging to answer questions.

Performance: A dramatic portrayal of the topic no more than 10 minutes long. If costumes are used, they should be authentic representations of the period portrayed.

Documentary: A visual presentation (such as a video, slide show, or computer project) no more than 10 minutes long. A desktop computer, screen, projector, and speakers will be available. Students must provide their presentations on CDs before Friday, March 23. Students needing other equipment should contact the Multimedia Resource Center by Monday, March 19.

Essay: An academic paper of no fewer than 2,000 and no more than 2,500 words. No illustrations are allowed. Use standard font and margins. Please do not include covers. A list of references must be included.

p3.png Important Dates

Submit a preliminary topic proposal to your history teacher. The teacher may require a second proposal if the preliminary proposal is off-topic or needs elaboration.

Submit a first draft of essay, exhibit materials, performance script, or documentary storyboard.

A committee of Thornton teachers will critique materials and provide feedback. Students then have an opportunity to revise and improve their final products.

Submit a final draft of essay.

Exhibit, performance, and documentary committee preview

    Thornton Middle School History Fair
  • 7:00 A.M. – 9:00 A.M. Participants set up in gym
  • 10:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. Fair opening and judges’ review
  • 7:00 P.M. Awards ceremony and picnic

April 7: Virginia History Day District 8 Competition
April 28: Virginia History Day State Competition
June 10–14: National History Day Competition
PASSAGE 3 - Refer to this story to answer questions 24 -31.

Night Owl

1     Night Owl was a young Powhatan Indian who lived in a village on the banks of the York River in Virginia. Every midsummer, elders of the tribe met to choose the young teenage boys who would be leaders. Today the village gathered to hear the Chief announce their names.

2     Night Owl stiffened. He strained his ears to listen. “Sleeping Bear, Soaring Raven, Lone Wolf . . .” As names of others rolled off the Chief’s tongue, Night Owl’s hopes dwindled. At last the Chief finished. He had not called Night Owl’s name during the ceremony. The boy tried his best to swallow his disappointment, but it was not easy.

3     Afterward Sleeping Bear, whose father was an elder, came to Night Owl. “Do not be sad,” he said softly. “My father said you were too young.”

4     Night Owl said nothing. If only he had been six months older, he might have been chosen. Even worse, among the ten boys chosen to be leaders, three were Night Owl’s best friends.

5     Near the yehakins, or longhouses in which families lived, a ceremony was taking place for the young leaders. Dancers leaped, shouted, and sang around the campfire to the music of pounding drums, piping reeds, and rattling gourds. Wild turkeys and ducks were roasted on spits, and women stirred great pots of stew over fire pits. Night Owl sat crosslegged on the ground, in the shadows where no one could see him.

6     A hard, painful knot lodged inside Night Owl’s chest. He felt happy for his friends, but as new leaders, they would be gone for many months, and he would have to stay at home.

7     One by one his friends had come to him earlier in the day to tell him goodbye. Tonight they would leave the village to begin their nine-month ordeal of physical hardship, loneliness, and fasting. They would go away as boys and return as braves. He watched until the end of the ceremony when the boys left the blazing campfire and disappeared into the forest.

8     The next day Night Owl did not join the other boys and girls in their game of stick ball. Instead he walked alone into the fields. His tribe grew crops of corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. Half of the crop had been harvested, but there was still more than enough left for the tribe to eat until fall. An abundance of food was important because it had to last through the entire winter. In the middle of the fields stood the scarecrow houses. Normally, the small boys waited in the houses to chase animals away from the crops. Today, however, the children were all playing in the village. The houses were empty.

9     Here, Night Owl thought, would be a good place to hide until he could calm down. Showing a sad face before his tribesmen was not acceptable.

10     He climbed into the flimsy wooden structure, lay down on a mat of grasses, and soon fell asleep. A strange sense of foreboding woke him. Something was not right. He jumped to his feet and looked below. Rabbits were everywhere nibbling the beans, the squash, and the pumpkin vines. Night Owl hadn’t seen so many rabbits in a long time.

11     “Eiyee!” he shouted. “Eiyee! Eiyee!”

12     He swung down from the scarecrow house and ran up and down the rows of pumpkins, shouting and waving his arms. The frightened rabbits scattered like leaves blowing in a violent wind. Alerted by the commotion, small children ran from the village, crying out, “What’s happening? What’s the trouble?”

13     Night Owl laughed. Such children, afraid of a little noise, he thought. “It’s only rabbits,” he said. “You have nothing to fear.” But the adults who had followed the children into the fields looked somber. They knew what might have happened had Night Owl not been there.

14     One man spoke for all. “We all know how important it is to preserve food for the coming winter. We are fortunate, Night Owl, that you were here to protect our crops. I can see you will be a fine leader someday.”

15     The children wandered back to their games, and the adults returned to their work. Night Owl, however, climbed back up into the scarecrow house. There he sat the rest of that day and took his turn every day until the harvest was complete.

PASSAGE 4 - Refer to this story to answer questions 32 -45.

The Song Hunter

1     Thousands of visitors come each year to the Appalachian region in Southwest Virginia because of its spectacular natural beauty. The Blue Ridge Mountains, however, offer more than just scenic landscapes. Immigrants from Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales were the first settlers in Southwest Virginia, and they brought with them a great love of music.

2     This devotion to music can be seen and heard each August in Galax, Virginia, at the Annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention. The event includes musicians who have played there regularly since the beginning of the competition in 1935. A local newspaper item from that year stated that the convention was dedicated to making it possible “for people of today to hear and enjoy the tunes of yesterday.” The Galax convention has grown steadily over the years to include competitions in bluegrass, fiddle, autoharp, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and dulcimer playing. However, traditional American folk music, like the kind featured at this event, might have been forever lost if not for the efforts of a folklorist and song collector named Alan Lomax.

3     In the summer of 1932, when Alan Lomax was seventeen years old, he began accompanying his father, folklorist John Lomax, on his travels across rural America. They were on a quest to record the songs of cowboys, miners, farmers, railroad workers, cotton pickers, and hobos. Those thousands of American folk songs became the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress. In just four months, Alan Lomax and his father covered some 16,000 miles of the southeastern United States. They carried with them little more than a primitive recording machine and a deep love for the music of everyday people.

4     Lomax described himself as a “song hunter,” though he was much more than that. Throughout his life, he was a disc jockey, singer, photographer, talent scout, filmmaker, concert organizer, and even a television host. The common thread in all of Lomax’s pursuits was the desire to preserve traditional music and share that music with wider audiences.

5     Some of the musicians, like Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, whom Lomax recorded, later became quite renowned for their contributions to American music. However, fame and fortune were not the driving motivations behind Lomax’s work. In fact, Lomax had little interest in commercially successful music. He preferred the authenticity of music created on front porches to the hugely popular radio stars of the time.

6     People who worked with Lomax remember him as a complex and colorful person. Many of the musicians he recorded fondly recall his love of music and his sympathetic spirit. Lomax was keenly interested in the stories and lives of the people behind the songs he recorded. Many of his recordings during The Great Depression, the 30s, and 40s were made within the confines of prisons and state penitentiaries. Lomax’s interest in the stories and music of the poor was reflected in his appreciation for the hard-luck stories that were often told through folk music and the blues.

7     Today, many folklorists believe that the counties in Southwest Virginia surrounding Galax are as rich in traditional music as any in the United States. Bluegrass festivals, old-time fiddlers’ conventions, and square dances are fairly common events in this region. These traditional forms of American music are an important part of the country’s heritage. The tradition that continues in Galax to this day may well have disappeared long ago if not for the efforts of Alan Lomax.

8     Lomax officially retired in 1996 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 87. Today’s music throughout the world owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Without his extensive work, fueled by his generosity and passion, the music that defines the shared experiences of ordinary Americans may have been lost and forgotten.