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Baldwin hosts first America Bowl competition

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Take five minutes to list 10 Michael Jackson songs.

Now, imagine students born after 1999 doing the same.

Scanning the classroom at Baldwin High School, as 27 middle school students attempted to find the correct titles for “that song with the monster video” and “the one where the floor lights up” revealed a lot of anxiety.

“What do you think so far — easy or hard?” asked Debbie Reynolds, the room's moderator and gifted coordinator at Baldwin High School.

The students largely groaned, but a few of them actually answered Reynold's question, in true middle school fashion.

More than 300 gifted students on 72 teams from 25 school districts attended the first America Bowl at Baldwin High School on Friday. The competition tested elementary and middle school gifted students individually and as a team on American pop culture; geography; government; and U.S., state and Pittsburgh history.

The students participated in several timed individual and group rounds of answering fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. Then the individual and group scores were averaged to give a first, second and third place for the elementary school and middle school divisions, Reynolds said.

The Brentwood Borough School District team took first place in the elementary division, followed by the Baldwin-Whitehall team in second place and Montour School District in third place.

Middle school winners included the Elizabeth Forward Middle School team in first place, North Allegheny's Marshall Middle School team in second place and the St. Philip School team in third place.

Daniel Shaner, gifted coordinator at J.E. Harrison Middle School, and Jared Hoffman, gifted coordinator at Paynter Elementary School, were at a student competition last year and realized that although there are Pittsburgh history, math and science bowls for their students, there was no American-history quiz, Shaner said. So the two of them worked together with the other Baldwin-Whitehall gifted coordinators to develop the America Bowl.

The teachers created the questions and styled the competition after others their students attended, Shaner said. He had some of his students create the questions and then registered those who didn't for the competition.

“It was much better than we would have expected,” Shaner said. “It's kind of fun to show off what we have here.”

Middle school questions included:

• “List these 10 American leaders in order of their birth.”

• “Where are the Finger Lakes located?”

• “What states do the Appalachian Mountains go through?”

• “Who played the lead role in the Indiana Jones movies?”

Elementary school questions included:

• “What is the largest river in the U.S.?”

• “What is the mountain range that stretches from Georgia to Maine?”

• “What was the name of the volcano that erupted in Washington state in 1980?”

The J.E. Harrison Middle School team of Jelena Winowich, Olivia Brophy, Corina Pittman and Brianna Phillips worked hard on the American leaders birth timeline questions. They agreed that the competition was challenging.

The girls prepared for the competition by reading Wikipedia pages and then testing each other on questions, Winowich said.

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at

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