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Sunday, April 02, 2000
Students show off their knowledge of history

By Stephanie Barrett
Daily Press

NEWPORT NEWS - Though Kelly Engbersen is 12 and Kendyll Dombek is 13, the two seemed like they were adults living in the 1950s.

They spoke of getting canned foods for the bomb shelter, going back to school thanks to the GI bill, buying their first car, and moving from an apartment to a bigger home in the suburbs to accommodate their growing family.

Kelly and Kendyll were talking like this because they were giving a performance Saturday about the baby-boom era. The girls, from Queens Lake Middle School in Williamsburg, were joining in a history competition being held for Virginia History Day at Christopher Newport University.

Sixth- through 12th-grade students gathered from 9 a.m. until noon to show off documentaries, papers they wrote, exhibits they made, and act out skits they created. They came from many local districts, from Norfolk to Williamsburg, in hopes of getting selected to compete in a state contest in Williamsburg May 6.

Though their projects focused on a wide range of topics, from the atomic bomb to the inventors of flight, there was a common thread among all of them. They described "turning points in history" -- the theme of this year's contest.

Kelly and Kendyll, along with three other classmates, said their teacher, a baby boomer, inspired them to do a skit on that era. The five seventh-grade girls took on the role of a family during the 1950s, explaining what was happening when the American population grew from about 151 million to 181 million. Kelly and Kendyll played a man and woman who married just after World War II. The other girls played their young children.

The girls called it a great learning experience and said it didn't matter whether or not they got first place because they had fun creating their skit. Queens Lake seventh-grader Kassie Smith, who served as the performance's narrator, put it this way: "We said the best place we get is the placing in our minds."

Stephanie Barrett can be reached at 247-4740 or by e-mail at

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