7 December 2018
Buzzers dinging, random names, places, and scientific concepts are
being shouted out. If you did not know that the It’s Academic! club was meeting, you would probably be pretty confused.
The It’s Academic! club has been a bright yet overlooked gem at Atholton, meeting weekly in preparation for their yearly television taping and miniature tournaments throughout the year. The three-person all-senior “TV team” has been a dominant force in the practice room, and came more than ready to each year’s taping. The three seniors, Jessica Langsdale, Casey Greenberg, and Yamini Ananth, have all been members of the club since their freshman and sophomore years, when Mr. Douglas took over as the club’s sponsor.
“We treat it a lot like a trivia game, and we cheer when someone gets something really right. It’s all in good fun,” said Mr. Douglas. “I want my students to have a good time with it. That’s more important to me than if we make it to the finals in a television taping. I’m more interested about them having fun and showing off how much they know.”
Through weeks of hour-long practices on Wednesdays, creating flashcards, and memorizing even the most random of facts, the team found itself with three heads filled to the brim with knowledge. Despite this, the team fell short of moving onto the next round in each of its past two tapings. As all three team members are graduating in May, they hope that this year’s match will work out in their favor.
Though the team hasn’t successfully won a match to move onto a second round up to this point, each member remains hopeful that this will be their year. “It’s relaxing and fun, and there’s not a lot of pressure. But we still get to learn stuff,” said Jessica Langsdale, a team member since her sophomore year. She has participated in It’s Academic!–style activities since middle school, where she said the club, “wasn’t that different,” citing the similar nonchalant attitude of club meetings.
The team faced off against Pikesville and Brunswick High Schools in this year’s televised competition on November 13. Filmed at the WJZ-TV studio near Baltimore, Maryland, the episode will air on WJZ on January 19th, 2019 at 10 am.
Numerous other high schools around Maryland, including River Hill High School and Centennial High School, have It’s Academic! teams representing their schools at this year’s competition. The television tapings are shown throughout the school year in a tournament format. Atholton competes each year against high school teams, such as Catonsville, Owings Mills, and this year’s foes: Pikesville and Brunswick. This taping was the first obstacle in reaching further rounds in the It’s Academic! tournament.
Some of the team members had wacky and unique strategies in order to prepare for these tough matches. While some methods were more practical than others, each member had their own unique methods and subjects to study.
“The summer after my freshman year I made so many flashcards by hand and I researched so many topics. It just worked,” said Casey Greenberg, one of the three senior girls on the team. Greenberg said she also utilized a lengthy series of flashcard sets on Quizlet to review content in the weeks prior to taping.
With all of the answer-shouting, loud buzzer-pressing, and soft giggles from ridiculous answers, the atmosphere of the practice room after school is a sight to see. The club brings out the witty, humorous side of many of the club’s members, and welcomes positivity, confidence, and reassurance between team members. Some practices include keeping points, other practices do not. Some practices split members up into teams, others do not. It truly is a “one-size-fits-all” type of club.
Mr. Douglas took over the club from Mr. Sackett in 2015. “I want kids to come in, have a good time, and share their knowledge,” Mr. Douglas said. He has seen some of his best team members come and go in recent years, and this year is no different as he prepares his goodbyes for when May rolls around.
Because all three of his team members, including the alternates, are graduating in the spring, Mr. Douglas has found himself in a tough spot in terms of formulating a strategy for the future of the club. Nevertheless, his perseverance and positive energy have driven the club forward, and some of the club’s brightest spots have come from the underclassmen that have joined the club in the past year. Still, Mr. Douglas has planned to begin recruiting 9th and 10th graders in English classes in the near future. The club is welcoming to any new members throughout the year, encouraging everyone to come give the club a try.
All of the club’s members and their dedicated sponsor are excited about a new year ahead of them. Although her time in the club is coming to a close, Casey is already planning for the future. “Maybe I’ll be able to go on Jeopardy! someday and maybe win some money,” she said. “Who knows?”