Do you know:
Who was the thirteenth century conqueror of Mongolia?
Whose assassination was the impetus to start World War I?
How much did Thomas Jefferson pay for the Louisiana Purchase?
There are a bunch of fifth and sixth graders in our school district that know the answers to these questions and more.
We spent the morning with Neal and his team at this year's Knowledge Bowl. Last year the theme was Geography, Neal's favorite subject since he could walk, and he blew out the competition. It was so much fun to watch the fire in his eyes as he buzzed in and answered question after question correctly.
This year the theme was history. Neal has never liked history but it is his parents' favorite subject, so we were excited. His teacher this year is amazing and she has really sparked his interest in American history (he now takes the American History Atlas to bed with him at night) and Neal was anxious to prepare for this year's competition.
Neal and his classmates were given study guides from the district. There were pages and pages of terms, people, places and events. The world has been around for awhile and it has a lot of history. A LOT. Neal and his team created a Google Document and they started gathering and compiling information. When they were finished, their printed and bound document was over 100 pages long. I didn't get a look at the information until after it was printed and I chuckled over some of the answers (i.e., the forty niners are a professional football team in San Francisco--true, but probably not what the judges are looking for).
We had fifteen kids coming regularly to the weekly after school practices that their coach Barbie conducted. I went along as often as I could to help. Two weeks ago, after a practice game, the three top winners were chosen as team captains and picked their teams. Neal was a team captain and he pulled out his sheet of paper. He'd already analyzed which kids he wanted on his team (he would have liked to have had the other team captains). He picked three other boys and one girl (I'm pretty sure he was just hoping to show off for her--he's crushing already).
Yesterday at practice, we had to scramble to change kids around on the teams because we couldn't find enough parents (two) to help coach the third team and two other kids announced that they had other plans and wouldn't make it. Neal was so upset that his team was breaking up but was relieved that at least his friend, who was on his team last year at a different school, would still be on his team.
Don't even get me started on the lack of parental support because I have plenty of things to say and they're not nice.
Anyway, we decided to get past all the drama from yesterday and have a fun day. Neal headed in with a good attitude. He and his friend kept up with the other teams for awhile in the first three rounds but the eventually lost the lead at the end. The final round was B-R-U-T-A-L. Now, Neal knows what the teams that faced him felt like last year. Final score - 250 to 25. Ouch.
That last team was amazing and I was seriously impressed. They knew everything. Every kid on that team knew everything! And they were fast on the buzzers. Lightening fast.
So, we lost. All four rounds. Neal was down but not terribly depressed (a trip to IHOP and Deseret Book where he bought a book about the Civil War helped). It was all worth it because he had fun. He had such a good time at the practices. The fifteen kids that met each week became really good friends. The majority come from the same class and after last year's bullying and other problems, I am just relieved that Neal has found and been accepted by such a good group of kids. They'll stick together next year and it makes me so happy.
And they learned so much. They know who invented the gasoline engine for cars (they're Germans). They know all kinds of details about the Spanish American war. They know that the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia is modern day Iraq. They know that Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War. And that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers.
You would be amazed by what they know.