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Time for her to fly

Sixth-grader prepares for National History Day

Sixth-grader prepares for National History Day

June 09, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

WILLIAMSPORT

Erin Artz's sixth-grade history teacher said she never knew Amelia Earhart was in an "open marriage" until she read her student's research paper.

"My gosh, the depth of her research, I really do think it's at a high school or college level," said teacher Lucy Wess.

The depth of Erin's research is part of the reason she'll be representing Maryland at the 32nd annual National History Day competition June 11-15 at the University of Maryland. Organizers said they expect about 2,400 students from across the country to compete.

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National History Day is a competition for middle school and high school students who enter history-themed essays, skits and documentaries.

Erin took second place in the state competition and will represent Maryland alongside first-place winner Tamara Pico, a middle-schooler from Montgomery County.

Erin, who attends Springfield Middle School, is the only Washington County student to participate in the National History Day competition this year, state History Day organizers said.

Erin said she chose Amelia Earhart as her topic because she had read about her before. Earhart was the first woman to fly an airplane across the Atlantic and set many flying records. She disappeared in 1937 during an attempt to fly around the world.

But Erin's essay went beyond Earhart's accomplishments in aviation and focused more broadly on Earhart's contribution to women's rights.

"I really did learn a lot from her research," Wess said.

The project began as a class assignment. But by the end of the research project, Erin said she learned more about the struggle for women's rights. She said she discovered that being a well-known female pilot in the 1920s and 1930s wasn't the only thing that made Earhart seem ahead of her time.

"Did you know she was in an open marriage?" she said. "She was allowed to have affairs, but her husband never had any, or at least he was never known to."

"A lot of men and women didn't like her because of that," Erin said.

Erin said she also learned about the challenges female pilots faced. She said she was surprised at what some of her research unearthed.

As Erin puts the final touches on her essay and prepares herself for the judges' questions, she said she now realizes how much Earhart opened doors for all women.

"If Amelia Earhart were alive today. I think she'd be pretty surprised that women can do the things they can today," Erin said.

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