By Scott Levine
Queen Elizabeth I.
The Louisiana Purchase.
Topics that generally are part of a late-night cram session for college history courses are anything but that for four Camanche Middle School students.
Ancient civilizations, famous world leaders and the development of the United States are just minor categories within a Regional History Bee that eighth-graders Ciera Leary and Chase Wood and seventh-graders Garrett Evans and Chloe Vogel recently qualified for through an online competition.
The four students will participate in the National History Bee Regional finals in Chicago on April 1.
Talented and Gifted instructor Erin Daniels couldn’t believe when all four students made it to the regional round.
“The kids are all self-motivated,” Daniels said. “They want to try hard and succeed.”
With this being the first year for participating in the history bee, Daniels didn’t know what to expect when the four students, who placed the highest in a written exam among Camanche students, took a crack at qualifying for the regional bee.
What happened was that Leary, Wood, Evans and Vogel were among 123 students chosen to participate at the next level.
“I was honestly surprised,” Vogel said. “I knew the odds were stacked against us. I figured we might get one or two.” Instead, all four now have the opportunity to advance to the national championships on April 28 in Arlington, Va.
Individuals qualify for the national championships by finishing in the top half of the draw in their division during preliminary rounds in the regional, or by advancing a stage in the finals. The regional bee consists of two parts, the preliminary rounds and the playoffs. The preliminary rounds consist of students in groups of four to eight. Each student plays three rounds of 30 questions each. Students are ranked in order to the number of points they collected during the three rounds. Once a student gets eight points in a round, they are finished with that round.
Eventually, the students advance to the finals and a champion is crowned. Participants earn one point per correct answer, but lose a point if they are the third student to answer incorrectly before the end of the question.
“A lot of my kids like to be sure of themselves,” Daniels said. “They think through each answer. It’s sometimes hard to buzz in and take a guess. It will be different for them, but we’ve been practicing.”
The group practices with buzzers, but that seems to almost be a bigger challenge than knowing tidbits about ancient cultures and anything that ends in “war.”
“The buzzer is my weak part,” Wood said.
For most of them, this isn’t the first time competing in an academic challenge. Leary has participated in an academic bee before, and the historical format drew her to this event. Evans has never been in one of these competitions, but he’s confident in his knowledge of history, especially if it’s United States war history.
“This was just another bridge for me to cross,” Evans said. “History really is an intriguing subject.”
Daniels said students must have a knack for history because there are so many topics.
If one or all four students advance, they will have an opportunity to be on television because the History Channel showcases the national championships.