Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Black history bee energizes students

Two area schools place in top three

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Raphael Talisman⁄The Gazette
Murray Hill Middle School sixth-graders (from left) Sean Davis, Ameer Mohammed and Folarin Onifade, all of Laurel, work to answer one of the history questions at the Black Saga Elementary and Middle School Countywide Competition on Saturday at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia.
Irene Lu and Anita Kalluri were ecstatic about their team’s third-place win at the third annual Howard County Black Saga competition Feb. 2.

‘‘It feels really good because we studied hard for it,” said Irene, a fourth-grader at Hammond Elementary School.

Irene and Anita were two-thirds of the all-girl, three-person Hammond Elementary Black Saga team to compete at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia on Saturday.

The countywide competition featured 13 schools in total including three Laurel schools — Hammond Elementary, Hammond Middle and Murray Hill Middle — and was divided into middle and elementary school competitions. Black Saga is an African-American history bee.

Students answer between 12 and 16 rounds of questions picked from a pool of 300 by the event’s emcees, with queries about events and figures dating from the year 500 to the present.

Many of Black Saga’s questions are about little-known facts and baffled the parents of the team members Saturday.

‘‘Members of the audience were going, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question,’” said Mark Stout, curriculum coordinator for secondary social studies for the county schools, who emceed part of the middle school competition.

Questions included naming the three African empires that emerged between 500 and 1600 and identifying the city and state in which the oldest African-American-owned newspaper is still printed.

‘‘I think it’s a good opportunity for young kids to learn about the African-American experience,” said Ed Borders, a sixth-grader on the Hammond Middle School team, who, along with other first-, second- and third-place winners received a medal and had his team’s picture taken by a school photographer.

Hammond Middle School, an all-boy team, won third-place in the middle-school competition.

Hammond Middle School sixth-grader Ameer Mohammed had taken part in the county competition as a fifth-grader at Forest Ridge Elementary School in Laurel and enjoyed it so much he decided to do it again this year.

‘‘I thought it would have a lot of interesting things for me to learn,” he said.

Elizabeth Singleton, a Gifted and Talented resource teacher who coached the Murray Hill students, said her team would compete in the state contest.

‘‘I think they’ll just be determined to work hard between now and the state competition,” she said. ‘‘It’ll energize them.”

Next month, Maryland will hold its statewide Black Saga contest, in which any school in the state, regardless of how they did at their county competitions, can participate.