PLEASANT VIEW, Tennessee — Sixteen students competed Saturday morning in the inaugural statewide Tennessee Star Constitution Bee sponsored by the Polk Foundation.
The event was held at Sycamore High School between Nashville and Clarksville. The school is part of Cheatham County Schools.
On the auditorium stage near a panel of judges, the sharply-dressed young contestants recited the Preamble and answered trivia questions about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Founding Fathers. They also tackled oral short answer questions on topics that required a bit of analysis.
The first-place winner was Noah Farley, a 17-year-old homeschooled senior from Spring Hill, who won a free trip to Washington, D.C., along with a parent. Second place went to Alexandria Anderson, 14, a freshman at Stewart County High School, and third place went to Sunshine Coombs, 17, a senior at Stewart County High School.
Another standout was Lauren Hunsicker, a 17-year-old Sycamore High School senior, who beautifully sang the Preamble instead of saying it and won “Most Creative” in the Preamble category. She sang the classic Schoolhouse Rock version. Bracey Hughes, who also goes to Sycamore High School, won “Most Persuasive” for her impassioned, dramatic recitation. Home schooled sisters Madalyn and Abagail Falletti won “Most Entertaining.”
Early in the competition, participants answered relatively easy trivia questions about the year the Constitution was signed, the three branches of government and Great Britain’s role in the American colonies. The questions grew more difficult, with contestants being asked to define federalism and the separation of powers, identify the state that did not send a delegate to the Constitution Convention, and name the author of the Preamble. Students were eliminated for a single wrong answer.
Short answer questions asked students to address ideas about originalism versus the “Living Constitution,” a nation of men versus a nation of laws, and the differences between a republic and a democracy. Some students were asked to support personal opinions about current events and issues raising constitutional questions, such as whether internet companies can legally remove content they don’t like and whether the Electoral College should be abolished.
To prepare for the bee, students were given a free copy of The Tennessee Star Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students. The book is a pilot project edition of a textbook based on The Star’s Constitution Series.
The Constitution Bee was open primarily to secondary students in grades 8-12, with exceptions made for younger enthusiastic children.
Mike Sheppard, President of the Polk Foundation, Claudia Henneberry, co-author of The Tennessee Star Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students and a former social studies teacher, and Lt. Col. David Garcia (Air Force Reserve), a pilot for Delta Airlines and the Tennessee recruiter for the Air Force Academy, were the three judge panel at the event. Michael Patrick Leahy, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Tennessee Star, was the master of ceremonies.
Boy Scout Troop #458 of Pleasant View presented the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance in the opening ceremonies.
The Sycamore High School all-girls a capella group the Lyrics followed with a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Organizers are planning to hold another Tennessee Star Constitution Bee in Williamson County sometime next spring.
Here is a complete list of participants and award winners in Saturday’s event:
First Place: Noah Farley, a 17-year-old homeschooled senior from Spring Hill
Second Place: Alexandria Anderson, 14, a freshman at Stewart County High School
Third Place: Sunshine Coombs, 17, a senior at Stewart County High School
Most Creative Preamble: Lauren Hunsicker, a 17-year-old Sycamore High School senior
Most Persuasive Preamble: Bracey Hughes, Sycamore High School sophomore
Most Entertaining Preamble: Madalyn and Abagail Falletti, home schooled 5th and 6th graders from Thompsons Station
Additional Contestants who received Certificates of Participation:
William Gwynn, Stewart County High School
Conner Hicks, Stewart County High School
Briley Massey, Stewart County High School
Max Schaeber, Sycamore High School
Zachary Tucker, Sycamore Middle School
Pierce Moore, Sycamore High School
Mikayla Armstrong, Sycamore High School
Macy Latham, Sycamore High School