LOOK: Montour Students Compete in First-Ever 'America Bowl'
Could you answer these questions?
Students from more than 20 school districts convened at Baldwin High School on Friday to answer questions from a de facto American civics test that, hopefully, the rest of us would do just as well on.
And some of the more than 300 students at the event did so well on the test that they walked away as champions of the first-ever regional "America Bowl."
The competition—the brainchild of J.E. Harrison Middle School language arts teacher Daniel Shaner—was organized by the Baldwin-Whitehall School District's Gifted Program and pitted teams of four students apiece at both the elementary- and middle-school levels against one another.
Students answered questions in group and individual formats (with time restrictions) and combined their scores to determine first-, second- and third-place teams at both levels.
The questions were anything but easy, even for history buffs and politi-philes. A couple of examples: "Which state has the highest population density?" and "List any 10 U.S. government cabinet departments." The questions' difficulty varied by level.
And though the questions were written for pre-high school students, even some of Baldwin High's Gifted Program students, who were helping to shepherd students through the school and to tabulate scores, admitted that they didn't always have the answers.
"Some of them are hard for me to figure out, especially if I were in their shoes and being timed," Baldwin junior Rose Fiscante said. "I might know most of the answers, but with their time requirement, it must be stressful."
Students had five minutes to answer each group question and 90 seconds to answer each individual question.
"I think it would be pretty hard (to answer the questions at their age)," Baldwin sophomore Dennis Doyle said. "Even now, I don't even know all of the answers."
Gifted Coordinator Debbie Reynolds said that she and three other Gifted teachers in B-W—Andrea Huffman, Brad Schulte and Shaner—organized the event to spur interest in social studies.
Said Shaner, "We were at the [Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU)] Science Bowl last year—two of the (Gifted) teachers—and we were discussing the fact that there's no competition that concentrates on American history. We have the History Bowl that concentrates primarily on Pittsburgh history, but there's nothing that does American history as a group. And we figured it's time that there should be one."
Shaner and his colleagues then used AIU's resources to reach out to other schools' leaders, got permission from B-W School District administration to host, and as Shaner said, "the ball started rolling."
Twenty-six school districts registered to participate in the America Bowl—only two or three failed to show due to extenuating circumstances—and the event brought in teams from as far away as Marion Center Area School District (about a two-hour bus drive) as well as nearby Brentwood Borough and Upper St. Clair school districts.
Shaner said that some of Baldwin-Whitehall's Gifted students entered the competition and that those B-W Gifted students that did not wrote most of the contest's questions.
The categories were Presidents, Famous People, Physical Map, Pittsburgh, U.S. states and U.S. Government. Winning foursomes were crowned at the elementary (third through fifth grade) and middle-school (sixth through eighth grade) levels.
"Hopefully, this will get big enough that we could have it at Duquesne University or something like that," Shaner said. "But Baldwin High School is beautiful, and we might as well let people know it."
Dominic Woods, a Wilkinsburg Borough School District social studies teacher who accompanied a team from his district to the America Bowl, was among those impressed by the event.
"It was well-planned," Woods said. "Our kids did very well with it because they understand it. It's all curriculum-based. It's still with the Keystone (Exam)s; it's still with the PSSAs (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams). It's something that challenges the kids and that they had fun with."
Brianna Phillips and Corina Pittman, both Harrison Middle School seventh-graders, felt challenged.
"The group questions were pretty hard, and they took a while to answer," Pittman said. "But I think we did well on most of them."
Still, Phillips and Pittman's middle-school team finished out of its level's top three and didn't earn some of the event's award-winners T-shirts. But a B-W team made up of Zane Wooddell, Emma Turnbill, Emma Toman and Ashlyn Timlin did earn shirts by finishing in second place at the elementary level.
"I was excited for them," Phillips said. "They're our elementary school, so we're happy for them."
Elementary Level (points scored/possible points)
First Place (Blue shirts)
Brentwood Borough (234/312)
Peter Carozza, Ben Pribanic, Max Marcello, Adele Sedlar
Second Place (Red shirts)
Zane Wooddell, Emma Turnbill, Emma Toman, Ashlyn Timlin
Third Place (White shirts)
Montour School District (219/312)
Peter Rauch, Evan Gallagher, Ryan Gallagher, Liam Gallagher
First Place (Blue)
Elizabeth Forward School District (204/312)
Julian Barker, Jake Hebdo, Brandon Jacobs, Tyler Trunzo
Second Place (Red)
North Allegheny School District (200/312)
Arlen Belitsky, Julia Maruca, Will Taft, Steven Kirk
Third Place (White)
St. Philip School (Crafton Borough) (185/312)
Erin Sheedy, Anna Petrak, Harrison Klein, Maggie Leone