CHANNAHON — Channahon Junior High School students dipped their toes in the waters of history competition this year, participating in the National History Bee for the first time.
Four of them – three eighth graders and one seventh grader – qualified for Chicago regional competition, too, which thrilled coach Kim Yonker.
“I was pretty excited that all four of them scored high enough for the regional history bee in Chicago,” Yonker said, “especially since it was out first year trying it out.”
The CJHS students who went to regionals April 1 were Abby Holloway, Jake Bugajski, Brad Schumacher and Chris Flanagan.
Yonker, a social studies teacher at the school, is also the coach of the Geography Bee and a former Spelling Bee coach. She said she noticed the History Bee was becoming more popular the past few years, and she thought she would give her students the opportunity to compete in it, as well.
Brad Schumacher, the seventh-grader who made the regionals and CJHS’s top-scorer, said he enjoyed the competition, but that it was more difficult that he had anticipated.
“History has always been one of my favorite subjects,” he said. “The questions were really obscure. I didn’t know most of them.”
Yonker said it definitely was a learning experience their first year.
“Those questions were hard,” she said. “They word them tricky. ... Some of them were pretty obscure, and some of them were easier.”
“It was harder than I thought it would be,” Abby Holloway said.
Abby said some of the regional competitors knew the answers when only five or six words of the questions had been asked.
“They were buzzing in with like five words,” she said.
She is glad she did the bee, though.
“It was something new, and I like history a lot,” she said. “I’m in the Scholastic Bowl, too, and a lot of the questions there deal with history, and I knew a lot of those answers.”
Abby said about half the questions posed were about American history, and the others were about international history. Students in the district learn about ancient history in sixth grade and more about other cultures and history in seventh. The rest is American history, she said.
Yonker had several students volunteer to take the initial qualifying exam in December during their study hall.
The four who qualified took an online exam. All four passed that to go on to regionals. None of the students advanced beyond regionals, but Yonker has hopes for next year. There were 120 students who competed in regionals, she said, and they were from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. It was quite competitive.
Yonker is wanting to do the bee again next year.
“I sure hope so,” she said when asked if the bee would be held at the school next school year. “I’m looking forward to it. Now we know how to do it. ... It really is a good thing to participate and at least try it. Sometimes academics are overlooked, but these competitions broaden our students’ horizons. Whether they win or not, just the experience is so good for them.”