Category Archives: contests

Winner triumphs in “tense” situation

Eighth grader Anna Zeng was “pronoun-ced” the the winner after working through the preliminary, regional and semi-final rounds of the Electronic Grammar Usage Mechanics Proficiency Program (EGUMPP) Grammar Bowl State Finals at Grand Canyon University on April 14.

The Arizona EGUMPP Grammar Bowl is a test and on-stage competition for 8th and 9th graders focusing on grammar concepts and terminologies. Students work through the phases of the competition, first scoring at least a 90 percent on a mastery test, then taking an online test and finally taking a timed written test to qualify for finals. Out of 500 students who start at the preliminaries phase, only 24 make it to finals.

Of the 24 finalists, seven were from BASIS schools at Oro Valley and Chandler. BASIS School, Inc. is a non-profit organization that has charter schools throughout Arizona. Zeng is from BASIS Oro Valley.

Anna Zeng and Farhan Rahman with (from left to right) former Senator John Hupenthal, Robert Safran (creator of EGUMPP) and Senator Rich Crandall. Photo courtesy of BASIS Schools, Inc.

“[Anna] displayed grace under pressure,” says BASIS Oro Valley English teacher and Grammar Bowl advisor Susie Lantz in a press release.

Having to answer more questions than many other competitors because of a random choosing for a reduction round, Zeng still won first place prizes of a $5,000 college scholarship, a trip for four to Washington D.C., and a new iPad.

Runner up, 8th grader Farhan Rahman, is from BASIS Chandler.

“We are very proud of Farhan,” says BASIS Chandler English teacher and Grammar Bowl advisor Cyndi O’Brien in a press release. “He worked hard to prepare for the finals and is already planning to compete again next year.”

Farhan and his family. Photo courtesy of BASIS Schools, Inc.

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Academic challenges yield cerebral growth and fun

Think of academic competitions as similar to the Roman gladiators, without the threat of physical harm, and with the possibility of better SAT scores.

Competitive academics might not be in the Olympics (yet) but there are plenty of opportunities to go head to head, or brain to brain, with other students. Even if students don’t expect to win, the materials used for getting ready are worthwhile and probably more fun than more worksheets in class.

We’ve received several press releases from Basis Schools in Scottsdale and Chandler listing triumphs in the following competitive academic arenas.

The Arizona EGUMPP Grammar Bowl starts with an online grammar module to qualify students for the regional competition. The Regionals and semifinals are timed, written tests and the final competition is a live event at Grand Canyon University on April 14. And no, I didn’t misspell EGUMPP, it stands for Electronic Grammar Usage Mechanics Proficiency Program.

MATHCOUNTS is an enrichment activity and club program with competitive mathematics opportunities for sixth through eighth grade students. It features creative problem solving with written and oral rounds, and team and individual components. The problems require critical thinking as well as mathematical creativity. MATHCOUNTS provides the materials for students and teachers.

Here’s an example of a MATHCOUNTS problem: Malika ran 3 miles. She ran the first mile in 6 minutes, 45 seconds. Her time to complete each mile was 1/9 longer than her time to complete the previous mile. In seconds, how long did it take Malika to run all 3 miles?

Not a simplistic or boring problem.

Next there is WordMasters Challenge, a vocabulary competition based on completing analogies, which means students must understand the subtle meanings and nuances of the language. It’s for grades 3-8.

Here are a few sample analogies from the WordMasters website:

1. WOODS is to ACORN as ORCHARD is to ________
2. RURAL is to SOIL as URBAN is to __________
3. SHEEP is to FORAGE as OUTLAWS is to ________

Answers are at the bottom of this post.

For high school kids, WordMasters becomes WordWright Challenge.  It’s a national reading competition that requires analytical reading of different kinds of prose and poetry. Rather than just vocabulary, the WordWright Challenge demands students interpret literature and understand different styles and purposes of writing.

As with any competitive program, the preparation for the actual contest is as valuable as the match. Literature from authors as diverse as John Updike, Eudora Welty, Shakespeare and Margaret Atwood exposes students to a wide range of literary styles.

Answers to the WordMasters Challenge analogies:
1. peach
2. pavement
3. plunder

Seventh graders learn about our medicated water supply

Michelle Cannon, at left with her seventh grade honors science class.

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman

The students in Michelle Cannon’s seventh grade honors science class at Mountain Trail Middle School in the Paradise Valley district won the 2011 Disney Planet Challenge in Arizona for which they will receive Disney DVDs, water bottles and other Disney stuff.

The real value of the project though is her students researched a topic of their own choosing. Before they settled on a topic, they considered saving the black-footed ferret or the hazards of cigarette smoke as possible choices. Small groups in class developed research ideas and then had to “sell” those ideas to the whole class.

The project they eventually settled on is titled, “Save our Water: A Medication Mix.” They investigated the proper disposal of prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of kids, or adults, who might abuse them, as well as what happens to medication that is flushed down the toilet, tossed down the sink or  ingested per a doctor’s orders.

It turns out, as seventh-grader Abrie Berkowitz learned, “Most of the medications in our water come from human excretions.” People take their medicines; it ends up in the water supply. And not just painkillers, like aspirin. “I was surprised to figure out there were tons of medication in our water. I figured we’d just find painkillers and stuff like that, not dangerous stuff like blood thinners,” says Kya Shupert. Antibiotics, anti-depressants, allergy medicationss, cancer treatment drugs; any medicine people take eventually ends up in the water supply.

What effect it has on humans is not yet known but the reproductive systems of fish can be deformed, as described in an article from the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center in their July 2000 newsletter that cites research from 1999. The mix of personal care products and medicine finding their way to the water supply is of particular importance to Arizona because streams in arid regions often rely for their flow on effluent contaminated by medication.

Student Clayton Kingsley learned from the project that “over 80% of the water supply has been polluted with medication.” Mostly rivers and sewer water, effluent, that gets recycled he says. He adds. “It’s too expensive to do [filter it] with reverse osmosis” which the best way to clean it.

So yes, the reverse osmosis system in your kitchen will filter out medications in the water, but reverse osmosis uses a lot of water during the process.

The students made a large poster, but as there are 29 of them, it isn't as easy to see as their "Save Our Water" poster.

In addition to the science research, the seventh graders persuaded 500 students to sign a pledge to properly dispose of medications in their households. They asked that I publicize the National Take-Back Day, April 28. An initiative sponsored by the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency. The initiative website lists thousands of locations all over the country that accept outdated or unused prescription medication for disposal.

Cannon said the project was very beneficial to her students. They had fun doing the research and learning what they wanted to learn. For Cannon, she was able integrate the many environmental standards in the state curriculum into the project.

New Vistas students receive awards in Creative Expressions Contest

Four young students from New Vistas Center for Education private school received first, second and third place awards in the City of Chandler’s Creative Expressions Contest and Centennial Poster competition. The winners were announced Friday, Jan. 20, by Community Resources and Diversity Manager Leah Powell.

Alessandra Isaacson sings a song dedicated to Chandler residents, of all heritages, who miss their homeland.

This year, 1,100 children submitted entries in performance, writing and visual arts categories. First place in performance for kindergarten through fourth grade was New Vistas first grader Alessandra Isaacson. She introduced her a capella song in both Spanish and English and dedicated it to those who miss their homeland.

“The song is about missing your home and having no one around who knows you,” Isaacson said in a press release from the school. “I like to sing in front of people. It makes me happy.”

In the writing category, Sasha Guntu won first place with an essay about coming to America.

Sisters Melinda and Madeleine Chang.

In visual arts, Madeleine Chang (5) came in third with a painting of a Chandler farm and her sister Melinda Chang (10) came in second for her depiction of downtown Chandler’s Farmer’s Market.

“There are 29 different people in my picture and they are all doing something different,” Melinda said in the press release.

Melinda also won first place out of 1,500 entries in the Centennial Poster Contest.

All first place winners were congratulated and awarded cash prizes at a Jan. 23 Chandler City Council Meeting. — Amy Vogelsang

Melinda's drawing of the downtown Chandler's Farmer's Market.

Melinda's first place winning entry of the Centennial Poster Contest.

I have a preposition for you

We have the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and also the Arizona EGUMPP Grammar Bowl. Bet you haven’t heard of the Grammar Bowl, much less EGUMPP.

In a previous career I was a middle school language arts teacher. I well remember trying to convince slouching adolescents the value of understanding and using proper grammar. I explained that grammar is the nuts and bolts of language; its job is holding ideas together.

Eyes rolled at the mention of predicates and subjects, indirect objects and transitive verbs no matter how hard I tried to convince them that grammar would rear its ugly, yet noble, head with every email, blog post, flirty text or cover letter they wrote.

EGUMPP stands for Electronic Grammar Usage Mechanics Proficiency Program. It was created by Safran Publishing and, yes, the company hopes to sell the program far and wide. If they can make their millions, and leave in their wake thousands of kids who know how to use the language and express coherent ideas, I’m all for it.

Each public, private and charter school in Arizona gets five free registrations for eighth and ninth graders. Beyond the first five the cost is $29 each. The deadline for registration is Jan. 7. Upon registering the students will wend their way through online and written grammar exercises for regional and semi-final rounds.

The final round of the Grammar Bowl at Grand Canyon University is a full-contact grammatical battle in front of a live audience. Each participant wields a dangling participle and a sentence fragment. The finalists tackle and subdue a run-on sentence and pummel it into a comma coma. Really. You’re not buying this, are you?

In reality, the final round is indeed in front of a live audience at Grand Canyon University Arena on April 14, 2012, with head-to-head competition between individuals demonstrating their grammar skills. The winners will take home iPads, gift cards, scholarships and trips to Washington, DC.

Deadlines approach. Interested schools can register students at AZ grammarbowl.com. — Dan Friedman

Gamers, write your own

Kids play a lot of video games, logging hours and days getting to “the next level.” Challenge your gamers to design their own games and win prizes. Designing and creating a game is far more complex than playing one.

Playing games involves strategy, tactics, skills, spatial reasoning and ability to predict future events. Even the kids you see below, playing marbles in 1919, had to decide which marble to shoot and their likely chances of success. As simple as marbles was, it took its own skills and mental processes.

Ohio children in 1919 playing marbles. photo: Library of Congress

Designing video games takes creative reasoning skills to create the layers and branches of a game. The game has to be plotted out, designed and tested to keep the player entranced and entertained.

The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge is designed to create interest in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. If nothing else, there are jobs to be had and money to be made in the game industry.

There are categories for middle school, high school and college students, with prizes in each category. Educators have their own category. Each age category includes a challenge from PBS Kids and the Corporation for Public broadcasting to create games for younger kids.

There are five gaming platforms entrants can use or they can submit ideas in written form. But get your gamer kid to learn a platform and enter the contest. What better way to get them to put down that ding-dang game console and do something constructive?

Grand Canyon State Games Art Contest welcomes creativity from all ages

Contest deadline is Oct. 31.

The 2011 Grand Canyon State Games Art Contest is back for its 13th year, inviting students, parents and grandparents to explore their imaginations on a variety of themes that explore personal development.

Sponsored by Arizona Office Technologies, the contest was created to promote creativity through art as an effective method for artists across the nation to express their dreams and ideas for a successful life and a better community. Artists are encouraged to draw, paint, decoupage or be artistically innovative in depicting their themes.

Informational brochures have been sent to 2,626 public, private, and charter schools in Arizona and 47 other State Games organizations throughout the country.

Only limit is your imagination.

Themes range from the impact of communication technology to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the importance of being tobacco- and alcohol-free and being active in the fight against obesity.

Participating in the contest is free and entries are being accepted through Monday, Oct. 31.

Entries will be judged on the basis of originality, theme, interpretation and use of media. First- , second- and third-place medals will be awarded in each category and winners will be recognized throughout the year at Grand Canyon State Games events.

There are 13 categories for grades K-12, a category for ages 19-24 and one for adults 25 and older.

The Grand Canyon State Games is a multi-sport Olympic Festival for Arizona amateur athletes of all ages and abilities. The event is organized by the Arizona Sports Council and is affiliated with 47 other state games throughout the United States. It is sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee through the National Congress of State Games. The Games seeks to provide Arizonans with an avenue for personal development through sports. In 2010, more than 30,000 Arizonans participated.

More information:  480-517-9700 or gcsg.org.