The right answers

Quiz Bowl tests Fort Dodge sixth-graders

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Fort Dodge Middle School sixth-grade student Madeline Stephen concentrates on one of the question Thursday afternoon while participating in the annual Quiz Bowl with her TAG classmates.

It isn’t that easy to find a question that will stump a classroom full of Fort Dodge Middle School sixth-grade TAG students.

Only a few of the ones asked during the annual Iowa Quiz Bowl Thursday managed to do so.

The students are given 60 seconds to answer each question as it’s projected onto a screen in the front of the classroom.

The subjects go from this to that.

“Where might you find photosynthesis? Which direction does the earth spin in? What do you call the driver of a dog sled?”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Fort Dodge Middle School sixth-graders Meah McCaleb, at left, along with Paige Lloyd, right, contemplate one of the Quiz Bowl questions they helped answer with their TAG classmates Thursday afternoon.

“Musher,” one student shouted.

Another student, perhaps not as knowledgeable about northern Alaska transportation methods, was amazed.

“How did you know that?”

TAG teacher Diane Pratt said that by working together to arrive at, and agree on, an answer the students learn how to work together as a team.

That 60 seconds they have is another learning experience.

“They’re very cognizant of the time,” Pratt said. “They have to practice time management, they get a cadence going.”

Each grade level’s class varies in size. As a result, one group might have six students or 13, such as Thursday’s class of sixth-graders.

Bigger isn’t always better, she said. Sometimes the small group can work quicker.

But, then, sometimes the additional knowledge in a large group can offer an advantage.

Each individual has to learn to rely on the group.

“Relying on the expertise of others not on their own is kind of a challenge for them,” Pratt said.

There’s no relying on anything other than what they know or can figure out.

“They can’t use maps, calculators or computers,” Pratt said. “It has to come from their brain.”

After a few warmup questions, it was onto the competition.

“It’s the real deal,” she said. “Good luck. Do your very best.”

The first couple of questions were breezed through.

“This is so easy,” one student said.

Then everyone’s dreaded subject came up: geography.

“Which state is directly north of Wyoming?”

Nope, it’s not Idaho, their first try.

Montana, the second try, did the trick.

One student knew something that got them the right answer to another question: “Elephants can’t jump,” they shouted out.

Paige Lloyd had the inside scoop on a certain bird native to Antarctica.

“I’ve watched so many ‘Happy Feets’ I know my penguins,” she said.

Madeline Stephan’s knowledge of astronomy came in handy too.

“You can see Mars,” she said.

A math word problem finally got them.

“What’s a gross?” one asked.

“It’s obviously a lot,” another said, because the five answers possible were all four-digit numbers.

“What’s a Mylar?” another wanted to know.

Not something that should be part of the formula.

“It’s just a kind of balloon.”

After they guessed twice, Pratt let them know what that gross was.

“It’s a 144,” she said. “It’s 12 times 12.”

While she’s able to give them feedback after they get a question wrong. She isn’t allowed to help them find the answer.

Not doing that isn’t easy.

“It’s very hard not to,” she said.

The teams that scored well during the Iowa Quiz Bowl will be able to compete at several more difficult competitions later in the year.

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