By Jeff Burns
My quiz bowl team was pretty good this year, and I was fortunate to have several strong history students on it, most of them seniors. At a Georgia qualifier for the National History Bee and Bowl, we did very well, winning the varsity team bowl championship, and all four players qualified individually to compete in the National History Bee. The National History Bowl and Bee competitions are held in Washington DC on the last weekend of April. Long story short, things fell together financially so that we could afford the trip, and we decided to compete in the Nationals for the first time.
The Bowl competition, in which teams of 4 compete to answer questions covering all areas of history, in other words anything and everything, takes place on Saturday. The Bee, in which individuals answer questions, takes place on Sunday. We flew from Atlanta to Washington Thursday morning and planned to spend Thursday afternoon and Friday for sightseeing.
First stop after checking into the hotel was the National Museum of African-American History, which none of us had seen. Unable to secure tickets in advance, I had to rely on the daily tickets released at 6:30 AM (and usually snatched up by 6:35). Success! The Museum is phenomenal…I think. Unfortunately, the museum was so uncomfortably crowded that it made seeing anything impossible. I have never felt so claustrophobic in my life. It might be a few years before I attempt another visit.
That evening, we took a small group bus tour of the city and the monuments. This was a lot of fun. One word of caution though: In April and May, Washington is besieged by thousands and thousands of students, mostly 8th graders, on school trips.
We spent Friday on a whirlwind tour of the other Smithsonians: Air and Space, Natural History, and American History. Exhausting but awesome.
Then, competition days. I was proud of my guys’ performances in both the Bowl and the Bee. They performed very respectably for our first Nationals foray, just missing playoffs. We had time Sunday afternoon before our flight home, so we went to the National Gallery for a last rush of culture and history.
All in all, it was a great weekend. We were all exhausted, but I think we all had a lot of fun too. It was a great sendoff for the three seniors, and the sophomore on the team was excited and making plans for next year.