MARSHALL - Nearly 40 Marshall Public School students were involved in Knowledge Bowl this year, including the five who advocated for the activity by giving a short demonstration to board members at the Marshall School Board meeting on Monday.
"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about an activity that I feel is an awesome activity for kids," Marshall coach Bessie Skalicky said. "Knowledge Bowl is an activity that is provided to us through Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative and it is a statewide activity for high schoolers and also junior high students. It's basically an interdisciplinary academic challenge."
Skalicky said that 25 high school students and 14 junior high students participated this past season, which ended in early March.
Photo submitted by La Oeltjenbruns
Meghan Lozinski, front left, and Nick Lozinski debate before giving an answer during a Marshall High School knowledge bowl team demonstration Monday night at the Marshall School Board meeting. Other MHS team members include Eli Louwagie, left back, Talitha Black and Rachel Landmark.
"I have the opportunity to bring high school seniors to Rotary Club every Tuesday, and many times the students speak about their experiences and their activities," Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert said. "Knowledge Bowl is one of the activities they highlight. It's amazing to hear the knowledge that the students come to the table with. It's really a great activity for our students that oftentimes doesn't get the attention that some of our sports and other activities do."
Two senior high teams finished in the top 10 of the regional competition but did not qualify for the state competition this year. Despite not advancing, Skalicky believes all of the teams were successful this season.
"Overall, as far as participation in Marshall, we've done very well as a team," Skalicky said. "The last five years that I've been coaching we've had four different teams make it to state competition. We've had some do very well once they got there. Some have a little bit of a culture shock once they got there. I have high expectations for my team members in upcoming seasons."
Of the five MHS students who helped give the Knowledge Bowl presentation Monday, only senior Eli Louwagie will not be returning next season. Others returning next year include junior Meghan Lozinski, sophomores Nick Lozinski and Rachel Landmark and freshman Talitha Black.
"It's fun," Louwagie said.
Skalicky explained that a pressurized strip, green in color and connected to a pocket box, lays in the middle of the team's table. Anyone can buzz in, but only the spokesperson can give an answer to the judge.
"Basically, it's not only a race to show what you know, it's also a racing competition to buzz in first, to get the opportunity to answer first," she said. "Students work in cooperative groups. They get 15 seconds of discussion time on the question they are asked if they buzz in first, or second or third."
At the junior high level, five to six students can make up a team, while a the senior high level, a team consists of four to five students.
"At a normal competition, there'll be three teams in a room and they'll compete for a series of 45 questions," Skalicky said. "And, then they basically build their score throughout the day. At the subregional level, they have four oral rounds and one written round. Then, if they get into the top three rooms, which have the top 12 teams in there, they also get what's called 'points of scoring.'"
Board member Matt Coleman asked the Knowledge Bowl representatives whether or not they try to buzz in every time, whether or not they think they know the answer.
"Yes," Meghan Lozinski said.
While it's highly likely that one of the four team members will know the answer to the question, Lozinski's brother Nick had a backup plan.
"If not, then we'll take a guess," Nick Lozinski said.
The best part about competing in Knowledge Bowl, according to Nick Lozinski, is that it's about improving your own knowledge.
"I like that it's more of a self-competition," he said. "It's more of you trying to improve each round other than trying to beat other people."
Skalicky believes that participation teaches students skills that are going to be useful to them in the real world.
"It's really focused on teamwork, communication and listening," she said. "Listening is a huge aspect."
Willert asked if questions came from different categories, like in Trivial Pursuit. Questions, he was told, come from a variety of categories, which are unknown to students at the time the question is given.
"They pull questions from all different varieties of backgrounds, like math, science, literature, current events," Skalicky said. "We create teams that work cooperatively in kind of a "Jeopardy" style format to answer those questions."
Coleman asked the students whether or not they could buzz in during the middle of a question.
"As soon as they say the question, you can buzz in," Louwagie said.
Board member Karen VanKeulen asked if the same four people stay together in a team format.
"It changes, depending on who is there and who's not," Meghan Lozinski said.
Knowledge Bowl is a special activity, Skalicky said, because it encourages different types of students to collaboratively work together.
"It brings kids together that normally, in other activities, wouldn't be together because we are able to have a very flexible season," she said. "They're in multiple activities at the same time, but they're also in Knowledge Bowl. So we have them in speech, marching band, wrestling, all different types of things and they come together and compete in this one activity."
Besides the academic challenge, Knowledge Bowl also provides the opportunity to gain self-confidence.
"This is a major confidence builder for a lot of students that are involved because it's OK if you don't get the right answer all the time," Skalicky said. "We have a lot of kids that are very quiet, but they come alive during Knowledge Bowl rounds. It's kind of fun to see that, too."
Requirements for participation, Skalicky said, is that students practice one day a week and then compete on Mondays. That flexibility is what Louwagie, who has an extremely busy schedule, appreciates.
"In terms of participation, it's one practice a week," he said. "I have two chances a week to show up."