published Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Local home-school student medals at state history fair

  • photo
    Turner Beth Bryant, 12, poses for a portrait with her project on women's suffrage in the Times Free Press studio. She recently placed second in a state history competition with the project.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLAIM TO FAME

March 5, Turner Bryant won the David H. Gray History Fair Competition. April 2, she took second place in the junior individual division of the Tennessee History Day State Contest in Nashville. June 12-16, she will be one of two Tennessee representatives her age at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland.

ABOUT HER

Age: 12.

Grade: 7th grade (home-schooled).

Favorite subjects: Math and art.

Dream celebrity encounter: Justin Bieber.

Idols: Her mother and father, Suzy and Carl Bryant.

Favorite books: The “Maximum Ride” series by James Patterson.

With her natural attraction to arts and crafts and her attention to detail, it should be no surprise Turner Bryant has excelled in the history-fair circuit.

“The Last Desperate Battle: Tennessee Remembers the Ladies,” her presentation on the fight for women’s suffrage in Tennessee, sailed through a local-level history competition in March.

Earlier this month, she took second place at the state competition in Nashville, which earned her entrance in the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day contest at the University of Maryland outside Washington, D.C.

Her presentation features facts and pictures and quotes of the suffrage movements most important figures over a backdrop of newspaper clippings. She has devoted four to six hours a week to the project for the last seven months.

With more than 100 hours of work behind her, Turner said she feels only a little nervous about the competition in June. True to her pursuit of perfection, however, she is committed to a complete overhaul of her project in the coming weeks.

“We’re starting over,” she said. “We’re going to redo pretty much everything because my board isn’t good enough. The appearance needs to be better.”

Turner’s mother, Suzy Bryant, has home-schooled her since kindergarten. Bryant said her daughter’s fixation with presenting her best face dates to her infancy.

Even when she was learning to walk, Turner would get performance anxiety, Bryant said.

“She would crawl into the other room and start walking, and if she saw me looking at her, she would plop down,” she said, laughing. “For three months, she would not walk in front of me. That’s a perfectionist.”

The theme of this year’s competition was “Debate & Diplomacy: Successes, Failures, Consequences.” Turner said she decided to focus on Tennessee’s pivotal role in the suffrage movement after studying it in school last year.

“I found out that Tennessee was the last state to ratify it, so I became interested,” she said. “We were the last hope. If we’d voted no, it would have been no.”

Turner has competed in history fairs for four years. Although she has won the local level every year, she wasn’t eligible to proceed to the finals until she reached middle school.

After failing to push on to the nationals last year as a sixth grader, she said she was determined to pull out all the stops this time.

In addition to citing more than 10 books, Turner and her mother traveled to the state historical archives in Nashville. At the state competition, her extensive citation won a $50 prize for archival research from the Society of Tennessee Archivists.

One of Turner’s primary sources was Carole Bucy, an author and professor of history at Volunteer State Community College. Bucy said she often helps history fair contestants with their projects, but thought Turner was much older, based on the questions Turner emailed her in December.

“I would have thought she was a high school student,” she said. “I was very impressed with her questions. She certainly was going beyond the expectations of research for a history day project.

“I’m delighted to know she won second.”

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in “Talent Show,” which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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