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Southmoreland students take part in 'Mental Madness'

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 6:45 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Southmoreland's Lin Lin, 11, competes in the Noddlin' Around game during the gifted program event held recently at Mt. Pleasant Area High School.
Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Southmoreland's Michael Klatt, 11, stacks dice on a popsicle stick at the A Bit Dicey station at the 'Mental Madness' games gifted program competition at Mt. Pleasant Area High School.
Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Southmoreland's Madeline Grote, 10, participates in the Ruler of the World station.

Students in Southmoreland's elementary school gifted program recently matched wits with their counterparts from other area school districts during “Mental Madness” — a first-time event held at Mt. Pleasant.

The title of the function was inspired by the game “Minute to Win It,” and it featured 26 game stations for students in fourth through sixth grades in the junior-high school gymnasium, said Mt. Pleasant teacher Rachel Long.

During the event, students had to choose their game strategies and decide what games to focus on based on the level of difficulty and point values for each, along with which lines to play were shortest.

Also taking part were students from Mt. Pleasant, Greater Latrobe, Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford.

Mt. Pleasant Area students have traveled to other districts for many competition events in the past, Long said, so they were eager to host a multi-school event close to home.

“We have a wonderful venue, so I thought it would be nice to take advantage, and it turned out well,” Long said.

The event was originally slated to be held on the school's football field at Viking Stadium, but the potential for rain moved it into the gym.

Many people contributed to the success of the event including junior-senior high school principal Ken Williams, who was very helpful in planning and preparing for the event, Long said.

In addition, high school students belonging to the Social Emotional Assessment and Learning program manned the 26 game stations to assist the younger students.

Southmoreland gifted adviser Lisa Shinsky said she took 12 students to the event.

Shinsky is no stranger to this type of event hosting a math and improv theater each year, she added.

“It was well organized, and the students had a lot of fun,” Shinsky said.

The students were required to complete the task at each station within one minute.

They were permitted to go back and retry each station as many times as it took to complete it in the allotted time.

“I think it was very challenging to try all the different games. I like that we get to interact with other gifted students from different school districts,” said Krista Polanofsky, a fourth-grade student at Norvelt Elementary School.

The point value of each game ranged from two to five points depending on the level of skill required to successfully complete them, Long said.

Southmoreland's Michael Klatt, 11, said his favorite game was Stack Attack, in which students were required to stack 28 plastic cups into a triangle-shaped structure. Competitors were then required to reform the cups back into a single stack. That game was worth five points.

If students completed all 13 games on one of two score sheets, they were awarded an additional 10 points.

Students competed against other students at their respective grade levels, Long said.

The top three winners at each grade level were recognized at the conclusion of the competition.

Each student attending received a certificate of participation.

For Mt. Pleasant Area, Alexandra Hamm placed first and Hannah Brown placed second in the fifth-grade division, while Logan Andrews placed first and Ben Yeskey placed third among the district's fourth-graders. Nick Formato placed third in the fifth-grade division for Southmoreland.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or