By KAYLA SMITH
Capital News Service
LANSING — With a resume of 10 regional victories, Cheryl Wells knows the secret to building winning Ocean Sciences Bowl teams: food.
Each study session, the Dexter High School teacher brought goodies for everyone to munch on, building morale and giving that little extra incentive to keep them coming back.
“We would eat our ramen or whatever she brought and just read through textbooks, write stuff down, make graphs,” said Graham Norton, a former captain of the Dexter team who is now studying computational math at the University of Chicago.
Wells and her Dexter teams have competed in the Great Lakes Ocean Bowl since it began in 1998.
More than 10 other high schools have participated in the past, including ones in Sault Ste. Marie, Painesdale, Standish and Okemos.
Dexter teams have taken eight trips to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl during the past 18 years.
Wells recently retired, but not before winning one more competition.
This year, the Dexter team went to Corpus Christi, Texas, where it placed second in the nation. Students and teacher won a week-long adventure, checking out barrier islands, aquariums, the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies and the Texas A&M University marine science water studies program.
“Oh my goodness, what an experience,” Wells said.
The Great Lakes Bowl, sponsored by Michigan Sea Grant, consists of teams of four who compete in a Quiz Bowl-like format. A judge asks questions pulled from a variety of marine science textbooks. Teams buzz in with answers.
Some questions are easy:
Q: The Great Lakes contain what percentage of Earth’s fresh surface water?
A. 20 percent
And some are hard:
Q: Name two identifying characteristics of monomethylmercuric cation.
A: It is a methyl group bonded to a mercury atom. It is an organometallic cation.
There is a rapid-fire question round and then a couple of team challenge questions.
Registration for 2016’s event runs until Dec, 18.
Winners of the event, hosted at the University of Michigan, go on to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. The 2016 competition will take place in Morehead, North Carolina, at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences.
The four top- ranked teams are awarded trips to coastal cities funded by research institutes, environmental groups or science laboratories across the United States. The trips connect students with the material they’ve studied all year.
This year, Wells’ team competed at the Ocean Science Research Center in Mississippi and came in second. Not bad for a bunch of kids from the Midwest.
“My kids didn’t grow up with a tide,” and the prospect of going there really motivated them, Wells said.
The Great Lakes Bowl motivates kids to dive deep into marine science trivia. They often find a passion they didn’t know they had.
Kevin Keeler, the bowl’s outreach coordinator, said, “It’s really cool to see these students very interested in science. I know a lot of these students go on to do something in the field.” He’s a fisheries contractor at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor.
Two of Wells’ past team members became marine scientists. One is on the Pacific coast researching the use of algae as a bio-fuel.
Marine science “was an interest I didn’t even know I had until I learned about it,” Norton said.
Ex-member Norton got involved when Wells bribed him with bonus chemistry points to fill in for a B-team member who dropped out at the last minute. Dexter won the regionals, and Norton stayed on to captain the next year’s team.
“First and foremost, the Ocean Bowl is a great way to make friends. It was the most eclectic and random group of people that I’ve ever been with,” Norton said.
This extra-curricular activity gives students the opportunity to develop research skills that they may miss out on otherwise, he said.
“We learned by sitting down with a textbook and pulling information out of it,” Norton said.
The impressive amount of work students put into prepping gives the Great Lakes Bowl a “high- stakes” feel, Wells said.
Norton, competitive by nature, says it’s intense.
Keeler said the questions are intimidating, especially in the later rounds, “When I get half the questions right I feel really good about myself.”
It’s Keeler’s job to recruit schools. Even if they don’t compete one year, students and teachers should check out the competition, he said. They can see what it’s all about and come back the next year.
Wells said, “People are intimidated. If people visit the bowl and felt out the lay of the land, anybody can compete. They can make it a club. It’s very doable.”
Sixteen teams from Great Lakes states are eligible to compete.
Keeler said it’s also a great volunteer opportunity for people interested in the sciences.
The 2016 Great Lakes Bowl will be Feb. 6 at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Kayla Smith writes for Great Lakes Echo.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR CNS EDITORS
National Ocean Sciences Bowl: http://nosb.org/
By KAYLA SMITH