Our quiz kids are know-it-alls

In the time it takes to pose a question, Sakai’s Knowledge Master Open team can find the answer.

Responding within seconds to 100 timed questions, the thirty KMO team members proved tops in Washington State and eighth nationwide, earning 801 of 1,000 possible points in the winter 2002 Knowledge Master Open test administered in January.

“We’ve often gotten first or second in the state,” sixth grade teacher and Knowledge Master coach Marie Marrs said, “but eighth in the nation is amazing. That’s against 737 fifth and sixth grade teams in forty states – and international schools in Japan, Korea, and Singapore.”

The KMO competition, which is held twice a year, poses questions testing knowledge, comprehension, application and analysis. Competitors must be fast as well as accurate, Marrs says; the entire team of 30 students must agree on an answer within a minute. Questions answered in less than seven seconds earn a team five bonus points.

Unlike many “knowledge bowl” competitions, the KMO is conducted using computers. Questions sent by the contest’s Colorado headquarters are flashed onto a screen for students to answer.

Since students can take the test at their school instead of having to travel to the competition, many teams enter.

The contest is held each winter and spring. Sakai’s winning team will compete in the spring KMO on Mar. 19.

Students are nominated for the team by teachers.

There were, Marrs says, far more Bainbridge students prepared and eager to take the tests that there were slots on the team.

Marrs, who has also taught in Alaska, California, Illinois and Massachusetts schools, says that her students here are well-prepared to take a test that demands analysis as well as recall.

Sakai’s team members assembled for practice a few days before the meet.

In three evenings practice sessions, the team developed strategies. Marrs, who has worked with KMO kids for more than a decade, knew that the team had to specialize to achieve maximum efficiency.

Team captain Jonathan Potter was picked for his ability to stay cool under stress, because he would give the final answer.

“Actually, I kind of enjoyed having the pressure on me,” Potter said. “It was fun to have the final word. During the contest I wasn’t quite positive that we would win but I knew we would get above a certain score.”

Certain kinds of questions were the reponsibility of team members with strengths in those areas; the math whiz, for example, answered the math questions.

Kids also focused on specific tasks to maximize speed of answers. “Typist” Jilli O’Mara input the letter answer; timer Karen Eisenhauer kept an eyes on the clock; “not” people Catherine Gregory and Patrick Dahn warned teammates about tricky constructions, such as double negatives, in the questions.

Potter says having a friend, Stephen Peterson, act as “captain’s assistant” boosted his morale.

“I was pretty nervous,” Potter said, “but I knew my team was a really good team and Stephen was my assistant.”

Jokes take the edge off, too.

“There’s this great big bird – the auk – that’s the team mascot,” Marrs said, “and so we say ‘you’re doing aukcellent’ or any other pun we can think up. It’s corny, but it releases tension.”

Team spirit is strong in the current KMO group, Marrs says, who has coached other teams in which members would rather compete than cooperate.

“Sometimes there are kids who try to dominate, even though their knowledge base isn’t strong,” Marrs said.

The “good of the order” means curbing ego in other ways, as well.

“Let’s say the captain doesn’t take an answer a team member suggests, and that member is proved right,” Marrs said. “‘I told you so’ would create a negative mood. We say, ‘No sour grapes; move on and focus on what is happening right now.’

“Because ‘now’ passes really fast when you’re taking this test.”

* * * * *

Sakai’s Knowledge Master Open Team members are Jonathan Potter, Stephen Peterson, Elsie Love, Karen Eisenhauer, Jilli O’Mara, Catherine Gregory, Patrick Dahn, Matt Baran-Mickle, Chelsea Bell, Ben Curtis, Sam Deery-Schmitt, Joe Duprey, Nick Fling, Mac Griffiths, Natasha Hjerrild, Eli Jacobsen, Tommy Kribble, Kristin Saksa, Graham Schneider, Ian Shiach, Morgan Smith, Ben Tift, Joel Turkheimer, Phillip Wears, Abby Wyatt, Katherine Yagle, and Kate Zitnik.

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