Jim Bradley honored as Sevierville Middle School hosts social studies fair

May. 20, 2013 @ 11:41 PM

The 27th annual social studies fair was held at Sevierville Middle School on Thursday, and while the boards on display covered topics from Japanese internment camps to the history of Dollywood, this year's event wasn't quite the same.

A few months ago, 21-year veteran teacher Jim Bradley, one of the event's organizers, lost his battle with cancer. His son, Isaac, who attends the middle school, paid tribute to his father with a memory board. Bradley was posthumously named Teacher of the Year.

"We honor him this year for his many years of hard work in teaching and mentoring children," said Bradley's friend and colleague, Dennis Chambers. "It's been hard doing it without him."

Chambers said he and Jim Davis implemented the project as part of the social studies curriculum at the suggestion of former principal Mary Alice Teague, who was one of this year's judges.

"Students may choose their own topic, so it's something that interests them from the beginning," Chambers said.

In keeping with their curriculum, seventh graders choose topics from world geography, state, or local history. Eighth graders choose from United States, Tennessee or local history.

Social studies teachers Barry Warren, Nate Bowers, Michelle Hanners and Dennis Chambers all assign the project, so each student submits an assignment.

"To my knowledge, we were the first in the county to have a social studies fair for seventh and eighth graders," Chambers said.

Chambers said students implement a variety of social studies skills into their displays, including graphs, charts, photographs, illustrations and maps.

The students also learn how to write a research paper, which must be submitted along with the project.

"I could tell you all kinds of stories," Chambers said. "I have students who have connected with family members through interviews they have conducted. Some of them also travel. One student did her project on Oconaluftee, so she went to visit.

For the students, the fair "opens new avenues for them they would not have thought about if not required to do this project," Chambers said.

Eighth-grader Colin Moore, who won third place, was inspired to do his project on the Battle of Shiloh because his ancestor Stonewall Lax was killed in the battle. Colin said his favorite aspect of the assignment was conducting the research.

Meanwhile, eighth-grader Ciara Hollifield, who took fourth place, chose to research the history of the U.S. Air Force because her uncle, John Greene, is currently enlisted. "I thought it would be interesting and cool to write about," she said. "He works as a top sergeant, and I've visited him at the base."

Awards went to about 20 seventh and eighth graders. The awards were sponsored by the local Spencer Clack Daughters of the American Revolution.

"It's the last project they complete as middle school students," Chambers said. "Most of them take pride in that."

jfrye@themountainpress.com