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Members of Berkeley Middle School’s Science Bowl team take their after-school practices seriously, listening closely to questions and buzzing in quickly before they confidently identify the properties of diamonds or name the scientific study of bees.
But the team knows it can’t be all work and no play – after a string of questions about consumer math and earth science, alternate Sophie Freiling asked her teammates Wednesday afternoon to name the fluid in a spider that is like blood in vertebrates.
There was a pause before alternate Julian Curtis-Zilius blurted out an answer – “juice?”– which broke the team’s concentration and sent members into a fit of giggles.
The team’s coach, Career and Technical Education teacher Lisa Horrell, said the giggles are good and make a difference as the Science Bowldogs prepare for Saturday’s Virginia Regional Middle School Science Bowl.
“They are very good, not just in their disciplines but as far as getting along,” Horrell said. “I think it’s important to build good teamwork and good spirit.”
The Science Bowl challenges the math and science knowledge of students in a question-and-answer format, which features multiple choice and short answer questions.
Horrell had coached a Science Bowl team when she taught at the former James Blair Middle School and wanted to “bring it back” when she came to Berkeley.
“I had a lot of fun doing the Science Bowl previously and nobody here was interested in doing it, so I said, ‘Get me the kids and I’ll do it,’” Horrell said.
From teacher recommendations, Horrell brought together a team of seven eighth-graders in mid-January: team captain Jack Mingo; primary team members Leo Murphy, Avery Quarles and Hannah Weiss; alternates Freiling and Curtis-Zilius and team manager Levy Vo.
The Science Bowldogs have been preparing for Saturday’s competition by watching videos of previous Science Bowls, answering practice questions and studying up on science and math concepts.
While Quarles said she feels the team is ready for the competition, Freiling admitted there are still some nerves.
“I think we’re nervous because we’ve never done this before but we’re also excited about the chance to compete against other schools,” Freiling said.
Weiss and Mingo said the team needs to avoid distractions and concentrate on the competition to excel on Saturday.
“I think we really need to focus on the competition ahead and not stray off the topics,” Mingo said.
Horrell and team members agreed their secret to success could be Murphy, who was often the first to buzz in with a correct answer during Wednesday’s practice. Murphy said he joined the team simply because he likes science.
“Leo is going to take us to the top,” Horrell said. “It’s just amazing how much he knows.”
As the team manager, Voy has been able to observe the team’s dynamic and said members get along well with each other.
“We’re not always serious, and that’s pretty good because these kinds of things can be stressful,” Voy said.
Horrell has high expectations for the team’s success Saturday – she said she anticipates the team will move on to the second round of the competition, but will “just have to see from there” if the team continues further.
The regional competition will take place at Jefferson Lab in Newport News.
The winning team will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s National Science Bowl, which will take place from April 28 to May 2.
The winner of the national competition will win prizes for team members and their schools, according to an event news release.