Every Wednesday and Thursday after school, senior Brian Phillips goes to room 307 to study. He isn’t studying for a class or test. He’s studying for a competition. Phillips is going to participate in the Kansas City Academic WorldQuest competition on Feb. 22 along with junior teammates Clara Ma, Peter Moriarty and Pauline Werner.
Academic WorldQuest is a national competition for high school students “based on global affairs and U.S. foreign policy,” according to the website of the World Affairs Councils of America, the organization that sponsors Academic WorldQuest. Teams from high schools across the country compete in local competitions for their region from November to March each year. At the competitions, each team works together to answer 10 rounds of 10 questions, or 100 total questions.
The winners of each local competition get a free trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in a national competition in the spring. This year’s Academic WorldQuest National Competition will be held Saturday, April 26 at Georgetown University. Sponsor and social studies teacher Brenda Fishman has high expectations for this year’s team compared to past teams.
“Like my first team that won in 2008, this team is very driven and has a lot of natural intelligence,” Fishman said.
The Kansas City competition will include about 30 teams and will take place at Indian Creek Technology Center. To prepare, East’s team meets in Fishman’s room twice a week for about 45 minutes. Fishman selected this year’s team in October from about 15 students volunteers. To qualify, they had to take a test of previous Academic WorldQuest questions.
“I just put the test on the announcements and offered it a couple different times, and the top four scorers get on the team,” Fishman said. “It had about 35 questions from previous years, and [the top scorers] got maybe 50% of them right…the questions are things that students and the general public are generally not aware of.”
According to Fishman, the reading is very detailed and isn’t information students would learn in their regular social studies classes. Instead, each team member studies material from resources listed in a study guide that was put together by Academic WorldQuest. The packet includes links to news websites and other reading, as well as interactive maps for studying global climates, for example. Fishman says a lot of the questions come from government study statistics; these can be about global economic competitiveness or the number of cybersecurity arrests the Department of Homeland Security has made.
Aside from their two weekly meetings, they have additional studying to complete at home. Their strategy is to split up the wide-ranging reading material that they could be tested over into sections for each to cover individually.
“We divide the work by regions of the world, so each of us has a continent we’re responsible for,” Phillips said. “We also do that for subject areas, like I’m [global health and poverty/hunger], Peter [Moriarty] is energy.”
At the meetings, the team members study and interpret graphs and charts together on the overhead projector, discuss reading and take practice tests.
According to Fishman, this group of students is, by nature, smart and competitive enough to do well at the competition.
“I think [participating in Academic WorldQuest] feeds their thirst for knowledge,” Fishman said. “With this team, I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot of natural intelligence and they will do the reading. They’re here at practice, working together, and I think they’ll do very well… I really want to be back in D.C.”
Fishman got two opportunities to take a free trip to D.C. in 2008 and 2012. She went with two of her Academic WorldQuest teams that won their local competitions. She has been sponsoring the East team for the last seven years, since she first brought it to East through the connection she had as a geography teacher to the International Relations Council.
Fishman would like to see this team make it to the national competition because of the unique experiences it has given her and her students in the past. On those trips, Fishman organized sightseeing and college visits for them along with the national competition. They toured D.C. and saw the monuments and memorials there, too.
On the second trip, the World Affairs Council of America arranged a visit to the Chinese and Saudi Arabian embassies.
“[Visiting the embassies] was really cool because I’ve never been before to see an embassy,” Fishman said. “So we visited the Saudi and Chinese embassies two different days. They fed us really well.”
Phillips would like to see his studying of global health and poverty and hunger to pay off.
“I’d just like to see us have a good showing, and finish in the top half, or hopefully in the top couple, and move on to D.C.,” Phillips said.