Education Matters: Keeping the Academic Decathlon alive during the pandemic

Education

FRESNO, California (KSEE) – The winners of the 39th Annual Academic Decathlon competition have been chosen and University High School will go on to compete at the state level. That competition will also be virtual.

In a year when students saw so many school activities cancelled, organizers believed it was important for the show to go on. In all, 23 teams participated in this year’s event. It is the premier academic event of the school year – but like many other student activities, this one almost got cancelled too.

“Students have lost so much over the past year,” said Jennifer Quinn with Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. “They’ve lost that connection with their peers, being able to go to a school campus. It was important for us to maintain some sense of normalcy and to move forward with putting together an Academic Decathlon for them.”

The challenge is how to transform a face to face competition – and transfer all that excitement online.

“We had 64 different rooms, running on Saturday, January 30th, and we had hundreds of community volunteers who logged onto Zoom and met with students to listen to their speeches and engaged with them in interviews.”

Many students logged on at home and participated in the super quiz with their teams online. A few schools allowed students to come together on campus and compete. One of them was Sanger High School.

“Some of our kids still have connection issues at home and we wanted to make sure that we tried to get rid of that obstacle for some of our families,” said coach Angelique Duvet-Tovar.

Coach Angelique Duvet-Tovar says it was also about giving students the opportunity to connect with each other…to bring some normalcy back to their lives.

“Coming to this is really nice. I like talking to people because of the whole coronavirus,” said Sanger High student Samantha Harper. “I haven’t been able to talk to anyone so this is great.”

Students like Samantha showed up early to help make signs to cheer on their team-mates – even though everything about how the Superquiz is conducted was different.

“The kids are going to log into a Zoom webinar where they will be hosted by their Quiz Master, who is going to go through all the questions on a Kahoot screen, and then they are going to answer on a separate device.”

Although the excitement of a live competition may have been missing – this event gave some students the opportunity to connect.

“It’s kind of fun to be in the same room with all your fellow students like competing,” said student Steven Qintero. “And yes there is less commotion like people rooting for you but there is still a sense of celebration and coming together.”

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