Wolverines are top dogs in group thinking

The Woodward Middle School Knowledge Master team placed first in Washington, and 16th in the country. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
The Woodward Middle School Knowledge Master team placed first in Washington, and 16th in the country.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

Woodward is No. 1 in state at Knowledge Master Open.

The Knowledge Master team from Woodward Middle School went in with a mission: score at least 1,400 points in the nationwide competition.

That they did – and in the process emerged as the top team in Washington state.

In the Knowledge Master Open held on Dec. 3, Bainbridge’s team of seventh- and eighth-graders scored 1,569 out of a possible 2,000 points, beating out second-place Odle Middle School of Bellevue.

While the Woodward team has placed second in the state several times in the many years of the competition, this marks the first year that a Bainbridge team has taken the top spot.

The team finished 16th overall, in a field that included 815 teams from across the nation.

“We were all apprehensive at first since it was something bigger than we were used to,” said Jonathan Potter, eighth-grader and team captain.

“I was really confident though, because all the members of the team had shown their ability to contribute to the team at practices.”

Held twice a year by Academic Hallmarks, a maker of educational materials, the Knowledge Master Open quizzes teams on a broad range of subjects including literature, math, U.S. and world history, science, economics and law, fine arts, geography, recent events, and health and psychology.

On competition day, junior/middle and high school teams across the U.S. take the computer-based multiple-choice test.

Teams must answer within one minute, and can earn bonus points for response times under 30 seconds.

Seventh grader and co-captain Nate Gorman said, “We were all kind of nervous...but we got the first 20 questions in a row and then got into a groove.”

The 20-member Woodward team organized itself into groups based on each member’s strengths: math, literature, history and geography.

Members sure of the answer yelled it out, but for harder questions, the assigned team would each tackle one of the choices to prove or disapprove it.

Co-captains Gorman and eighth-grader Phil Wears kept the team focused and orderly. Potter determined the final answer to give and the typist would enter it.

“I tried to just keep the sanity level and figure out who thinks it’s answer ‘A’ and why,” Potter said.

The consensus was that the math and parts-of-speech problems were the toughest.

Another tricky question asked for the sum of two numbers converted to binary.

Eight-grader Patrick Dahn added that questions posed as “Which of the following are not...” were also tricky, including one with a double negative.

“After it got going, we got used to each other and there wasn’t a lot of time to think, so you had to stick to what others knew,” said seventh-grader Julie Tamanini.

The team scored 100 percent in a category called “Useless Trivia,” but also did well in math, history, and geography.

Kendall Horstman, an eighth-grader, marvels at how many seemingly “useless facts” he was able to pull out at the right time. A class on ancient civilizations gave him the answer to one, which asked what lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. (Answer: Mesopotamia. See sidebar for other sample questions.)

Woodward will be back in the spring competing at the Knowledge Master Open.

“Teamwork is really important,” said Loanne Harmeling, team coach and eighth-grade world history teacher.

“It also (requires) confidence to know when an answer is right,” she said, “and to convince the others.”

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