When I was in elementary school, I was discovering Encyclopedia Brown, hoping I could score a field day trophy in tug of war, and trying to win a toy by eating everything on my plate at lunchtime for two weeks.

At Deer Park Elementary School in Owensboro, the Academic Team is writing opinion pieces about theatrical programs at the elementary school level and solving the world's problems 20 years hence.

We've come a long way.

And I am absolutely blown away.

Deer Park's Academic Team has claimed the Regional Governor's Cup for the third year in a row, and, for that, they get a great big old CONGRATULATIONS! But let's dig deeper and learn what these kids have done to achieve this prestigious honor.

First of all, the Regionals are the highest level of competition for elementary students. State is the top plateau in middle school. And in high school, kids can work toward the national level.

After speaking with Deer Park Academic Team coaches Alex Haynes and Sarah Martin, I am so deeply impressed.

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This year, the virtual competition featured teams from 12 schools in Owensboro and Daviess County. There were 21 students on the Deer Park team.

In competition, there are four components: writing, problem solving, quick recall, and written tests.

The written tests challenge students in the areas of math, science, social studies, language arts, and arts & humanities.

The quick recall category is set up much like a game show--specifically, it would remind you of Jeopardy!--in which the kids are given questions and then buzz in with the answers. How much fun is THAT?

The writing team--coached by Alanna Robinson--is given a topic and asked to write their opinion on it. For example, they were asked if there should be a theatrical program available at the elementary school level like there is in middle and high school. And THIS year was the first year they've had to type. I didn't learn how to type until I got to high school. (One semester, and I haven't forgotten a thing...it's so important.)

And, by the way, one Deer Park writer came in first in the OVERALL competition, which is tremendous.

Finally, in the area of problem solving, for example, students are given a scenario 20 years in the future. They have to identify the challenges we'll face at that time and then come up with solutions and then a plan of action. Creativity is encouraged with this component and seeing as how they have the trophy, these kids' brilliant minds were equal to the task.

Coaches Haynes and Martin explained how tricky preparation for this year's competition was due to the fluctuation between virtual and in-person schedules, but all involved clearly came through with flying colors.

Coach Haynes told me that in the past, pre-pandemic, he's invited parents to come compete against the students--putting one in the mind of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?--and they absolutely love it.

Coach Martin shared how pulse-pounding the quick recall competition can get. As a former basketball player, she likened it to a one-point game with barely any time left on the clock and you're at the free-throw line.

The beautiful aspect of all of this is how eager these kids are to learn and absorb as much knowledge as they possibly can. I was told how well-rounded these students are and that they participate in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities.

They seem to be learning composure under intense circumstances, certainly an extraordinary lesson at that age.

But then again, these are extraordinary young people with bright futures ahead of them, and, for that, we can all be very thankful...and relieved.

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