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Student Activities

The Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Office is proud to support, coordinate, and organize annual Countywide Student Participation activities that have been local traditions for many years.

Spelling Bee
The Tuolumne County Spelling Bee was started in 1975 by Dr. June McOmber. June had worked at the County Schools Office for many years and was in charge of the student participation activities. Sadly, she died in a car accident in 1979. For the many years that she had devoted to the students in Tuolumne County – it was decided to dedicate the 1980 spelling bee to her. From that point on, the event has been called the Dr. June McOmber Memorial Spelling Bee.

Each school has its own spell-off and is responsible for determining the top 3 students in each grade level that will participate in the county bee.

The county level spelling bee is a written competition. The spelling master reads a word, uses it in a sentence, and repeats the word to the students who write it out on paper provided while seated. All students spell the same list of words. If/When a student misses four words, that student is eliminated.

The top two winners from the county level bee are eligible for the State Spelling Bee Championship.

The Soroptimist International of Sonora generously supports the event by providing the awards, not only for the winners, but also participation awards for all students that come to the Bee. They also provide the State Championship entry fees for the top two winners.

Approximately 50 students participate annually in the Dr. June McOmber Junior High Spelling Bee.

Science Fair
The Tuolumne County Science Fair was started in the late 1960’s early 1970’s . When Karen Bakerville Smith became a curriculum consultant for the County Schools Office, she was in charge of coordinating the County Science Fair. The science fair became a passion for Karen, as she traveled to other areas, studying how to setup, implement and reward for a successful science fair. Sadly, in 1979 Karen died in a car accident along with her colleague June McOmber. It was after this community tragedy that the County Schools Office chose to honor and recognize her contributions by starting the Karen Bakerville Smith Perpetual Science Fair Trophy in 1980.

Each year, an overall 5th/6th grade project and a 7th/12th grade project are selected to receive these very special perpetual trophies. The trophies are displayed at the winner’s school for the entire year. Each winner also receives an individual trophy to take home.

In addition to these two top awards, – awards are given for Best of Division in each grade level for Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science. Two runner up awards are also presented and those winners receive rosette ribbons.

The Sonora Lions Club very generously donates the awards for this event. They also volunteer their time to help set up for the event.

The Science Fair alternates every other year with the County History Days.

Approximately 170 students participate in the County Science Fair each year.

One to six projects from the County Science Fair are then selected to represent Tuolumne County at the State Competition each year.

Elementary Honor Music Festival
Back in the early 50’s the elementary schools in the county had their own individual music programs. In 1954, Bruce Paxton was hired at the County Schools Office as the countywide music consultant. He was instrumental in coordinating the Tuolumne County music educators association (TCMEA) in the fall of 1954. As a way to showcase all of the individual programs at the elementary schools, the TCMEA decided to coordinate a countywide music festival. The very first festival in 1955 was held at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. In those days, the festival was a mass band and mass choral festival and included all of the county’s musicians. Many years, the numbers of spectators and students ranged from 500 – 700.

Sadly, Bruce passed away in 2005. Tuolumne County not only lost a gifted musician and a tremendous advocate for children, but also a great guy. As a way to honor Bruce’s dedication to the music programs in Tuolumne County for all of those years, the festival has been dedicated in his memory.

The Elementary Honor Music Festival is an annual event that features both choral and band students.

Students from the elementary schools audition before all of the music educators and the students selected earn the opportunity to perform in the countywide event.

Local music educators, as well as, guest clinicians work with the students and also conduct at the event. Students commit to scheduled rehearsals in preparation for the festival.

This festival carries a great deal of tradition in Tuolumne County and to the credit of the many dedicated educators throughout the years, the Music Festival has continued and prospered for 57 years.

Tuolumne County History Day
The Tuolumne County History Day is a countywide competition that alternates every other year with the Tuolumne County Science Fair.

There are 4 levels of History Day Competitions – school, regional, state, and national.

Students in grades 5th – 12th can participate. Schools are allotted a maximum number of entries determined by school size.

National History Day started in 1974 as a “pilot” program in the Cleveland Area. About 100 students participated in that first year. Incredibly it is estimated that a half a million students from 47 states will be participating in regional and state contests this year – which then culminate in the national finals.

Students competing in History Day present original historical research projects on topics related to a chosen theme each year. Students can create historical papers, imaginative exhibits, original performances, multimedia documentaries, historical web sites, and posters related to the annual theme.

The schools each have their own competitions and the top three entries in each category are selected to participate at the county-level competition.

The first and second place winners from our county competition, in each of the categories, are eligible to compete at the California State History Days.

Two winners from each category at the state competition then are selected to go on to the National History Day competition that is held in Maryland in June.

We are proud to say, Tuolumne County has had two participants actually compete at the National Level.

All of these events could not be possible without all of the wonderful support that this community provides. It is amazing how many volunteers readily donate their time to help make these events possible for the youth in our community.