Students can showcase their smarts this weekend at the seventh annual Brain Buster Challenge hosted by Bitney College Prep school.
“It started as a way to get the word out about Bitney to middle schools,” said Bruce Herring, principal of Bitney College Prep.
“And it’s growing into a fun thing that the schools themselves recognize as a great opportunity for students.”
Middle school students from 10 local schools will compete in teams of five, at Bitney College Prep from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Any opportunity we have to give students an opportunity to go and compete, whether academically or with some type of skill, especially in a manner that’s team-building is just awesome,” said Dan Zeisler, principal of Chicago Park school.
“The excitement level that’s generated and the amount of fun that the kids have is just great.”
In previous years, the contest involved two teams from each school, but this year, due to the increasing popularity of the event, each participating school is to bring just one team.
“It will be interesting to see what happens this year,” said Gordon Sakaue, math teacher at Lyman Gilmore, who is mentoring a team.
“This year, we picked some seventh and eighth graders that don’t normally work together and several of the categories involve teamwork, so it’ll be interesting to see their perception after.”
The teams are led by a mentor, which may be a principal, teacher, or parent.
“I’m helping them prepare. The kids are going about it fairly enthusiastically,” said Dai Meagher, parent of a Mount Saint Mary’s student.
“What we like about it is, it’s combined all the talents together, so it’s more applied knowledge and general knowledge, not just memorization of facts and things like that.”
The problem-solving aspect of the competition is a beneficial skill for students to learn, Meagher said.
“I think the whole debate process is a really important process,” Meagher said.
“To formulate your own arguments, be able to persuade someone of your positions, and have to do it on a tight frame, incorporates real world application of the ability to communicate.”
The subjects covered in the competition involve math, English, science, history, the U.S. Constitution, geography and current events, as well as art, music, pop culture, problem-solving, technology and food, according to a news release on the program.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Ben Pare, a Chicago Park student who participated last year.
“It got a lot of schools together in an environment that was different from other challenges where there’s a big audience. With this, you go to separate classes so there’s a lot of stress off of you.”
The competition last year was surprising and different from expectations, Pare said.
“It was not what I expected at all,” he said. “You couldn’t really just study the math; it was sort of a game. It was a tic-tac-toe where you had to solve the math problems and there was also art and music and a physical challenge that you couldn’t expect or study for.”
The students rotate through different rooms covering the different topics, said Pare’s mother and mentor leader, Laura Pare.
“They have different stations and groups go through different stations,” Laura Pare said.
“They have one room where they have music and you have to identify the composer or performer, another showing photographs and you have to identify the work of art and the artist.”
The varied topics and information students prepare for are helpful for student learning, she said.
“They’re learning how to consider a topic from both sides,” Laura Pare said.
“This year’s topic is the death penalty and they’re learning that there aren’t a lot of clear answers and that reasonable minds can differ and they’re listening to lots of different music and works of art they haven’t seen, so they’re having a great time.”
The winning team will be awarded an engraved trophy to be presented by Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen.
“The trophy is on a brain stem,” Herring said. “It’s a revolving trophy, so each year the winning team gets the team (name) engraved, and it sits in the office of whoever won for a year and then goes to the winner the following year.“
There is also a spirit award for the team that works best together and has the most fun, Herring said.
The grand prize winning team last year was the Lyman Gilmore Smartans; the winner of the spirit award was Pleasant Valley.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
“What we like about it is it’s combined all the talents together, so it’s more applied knowledge and general knowledge, not just memorization of facts and things like that.”
— Dai Meagher, parent of a Mount Saint Mary’s student