Young minds tested in Knowledge Bowl contest

In the after school hours of Jan. 15, Northdale Middle School’s (NMS) cafeteria was littered with backpacks and books, Nooks, Kindles, papers, pens and pencils, iPads, iPods and Smartphones – the abandoned gear of Middle Grades Knowledge Bowl competitors participating in the Jan. 15 meet staged at NMS.

Kelsey Fahland, Angelina Bausworth and Sylvia Blonigen work the written round of the Jan. 15 Middle Grades Knowledge Bowl. The girls are members of St. Francis Middle School’s team and call themselves, “the most exquisite elbow macaroni party team.” Photo by Sue Austreng

Kelsey Fahland, Angelina Bausworth and Sylvia Blonigen work the written round of the Jan. 15 Middle Grades Knowledge Bowl. The girls are members of St. Francis Middle School’s team and call themselves, “the most exquisite elbow macaroni party team.” Photo by Sue Austreng

The competition’s written round was complete, and students had left the cafeteria for oral rounds staged in 13 NMS classrooms as more than 210 middle school students from across the metropolitan area gathered to take part in the Knowledge Bowl, one of three Meet 2 events.

Meet 1 events happened in late November and early December. The middle grades grand finale is set for early February – and these kids are eager to compete and determined to win.

“We expect to do well,” said Kelsey Fahland, an eighth-grader on St. Francis Middle School’s team.

“We expect to win,” teammate Sylvia Blonigen said, punching the air to drive home her point.

Knowledge Bowl is an academic challenge program offered at the middle grades and high school levels across the area and garnering the same level of passion and grit usually associated with athletic competition. With the proper equipment, training and strategies, star academic athletes reach the victor’s podium.

According to Benjamin Lacina, Anoka-Hennepin’s teaching and learning specialist for K-12 talent development, tournaments work like this.

Each tournament begins with a written round of questions that teams take as a whole team; the scores from this round determine which teams will compete against which teams during the first oral round, Lacina said.

Teams with similar scores are seeded against one another, he said.

There are three 45-question oral rounds; scores are compounded after each round and the teams each compete against those with similar scores.

Knowledge Bowl written and oral rounds challenge contestants with questions related to all areas of learning, Lacina said.

Questions are taken from the standard curriculum for the grades and test students’ recall, problem solving and critical thinking skills.

“Knowledge Bowl is a sport for the mind. It provides a format for student growth centered on academics. It generates the kind of attention for bright students that is normally reserved for star athletes,” said Julie Schaal, learning consultant for Success Beyond the Classroom, which coordinates the metro area Knowledge Bowl program.

Dylan Charpentier and Logan Mansink, both members of Coon Rapids Middle School’s team White, bury themselves in books (of the traditional type and of the electronic) while waiting for written round results during the Jan. 15 Knowledge Bowl. Photo by Sue Austreng

Dylan Charpentier and Logan Mansink, both members of Coon Rapids Middle School’s team White, bury themselves in books (of the traditional type and of the electronic) while waiting for written round results during the Jan. 15 Knowledge Bowl. Photo by Sue Austreng

Middle Grades Knowledge Bowl events have been offered to Anoka-Hennepin students for the past dozen years or longer, she said.

“I’m pretty excited that so many kids choose to do something academic after they’ve already spent the whole day in school,” Schaal said, looking around at the more than 200 students competing in the written round of the Jan. 15 event.

NMS Knowledge Bowl Coach Shaun Felegy witnesses the camaraderie of Knowledge Bowl competitors.

“This is a cool place to get together and be nerds and be accepted. It’s cool to be smart,” Felegy said.

Indeed, those students take great pride in their smarts, committing themselves to practice sessions, coming up with catchy team names and paying the required team fee ($120 per team for Anoka-Hennepin students).

Not only do they take great pride in their smarts, by all appearances, these kids just love to learn.

“I always have a book. I’m always reading something – not just for school but for fun,” said Otiti Mayo, competing with the Jackson Middle School Jumping Spiders team.

Sure enough, her backpack was stuffed with books – pop fiction and biography as well as the standard textbooks.

And that appeared to be the case for Mayo’s Knowledge Bowl teammates and competitors, as well, as book bags and messenger packs overflowing with books – hardcover, paperback and electronic – spilled onto the floor of the NMS cafeteria as teams prepared for the next round.

For local teams’ results of the Jan. 15 Middle Grades Knowledge Bowl Meet 2 at NMS, see sidebar.

For more information about Knowledge Bowl, visit www.SuccessBeyond.org and click on “Knowledge Bowl.”

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

up arrow