Tag Archives: National History Bee

To “history” bee or not to bee

“At what event did the perpetrator of an infamous assassination shout out, “Sic semper tyrannis! — loosely translated, ‘Down with tyrants!’ — during a performance of the play, ‘Our American Cousin?’”

“Who was president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War?” — OK, you Smarty P. Pants, who actually dredged this information out of your musty memory banks, give the answer under pressure in less than a minute … without checking the Internet.

And, since you’re on a roll, “What New York Governor lost his bid for the presidency in 1948, although the press proclaimed him the victor over incumbent Harry S. Truman?”

Oh, that was too easy.

Try this, “Which two U.S. presidents were impeached?”

If your answers to these four questions were:
“The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.”
“Jefferson Davis”
“Thomas E. Dewey”
“Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton” …

Congratulations. You, too, could have been regional champs in the first ever Kitsap-based U.S. History Bee, held Wednesday at Klahowya Secondary School.

The actual winner was Natalie Boyle, 16, an 11th grader at the school. She’s on the right in this picture, by Meegan Reid, Kitsap Sun Photographer
History Bee

Natalie beat out contenders in three preliminary rounds, and she was the first to reach five correct answers in the final round, making her the champ.

Never mind that she had but two other competitors, Danielle Frederick, 16, (middle) and Cassandra Pastori, 13, (right) both students at the school. Never mind that three other competitors — two from other schools — were no shows. Or that Boyle herself did not know she was competing in the history bee until early Wednesday, when she was alerted by an email, showing that she (represented by her mom) had signed up. Mom handed her the $10 entry fee as she headed to school.

This is the first year of the National U.S. History Bee, and, hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere.

To her credit, Natalie won all three preliminary rounds, even though, she said, “I’m not really a fan of history that much.” … and, … “To be honest, we get two percent extra credit on our overall grade,” for participating in the bee.

Her teacher Jeff Kreifels is sneaky like that. One minute his students are reading textbooks, doing class assignments and taking tests; the next thing you know, they’re are sitting there, hands poised on the buzzer, thinking, “Hey, history might actually be, like, fun.”
History Bee
Since 2010, Kreifels has coached teams and individuals into state and national History Bee and History Bowl championship competitions. For the past three years, Klahowya has hosted the state championship for both events. Kreifels is the keeper of $2,000 worth of buzzers and timers donated by the Washington State branch of the Colonial Dames of America.

Past history bowls, involving teams, and bees, involving individuals, have encompassed world and U.S. history. New this year is the competition focused exclusively on U.S. history. Boyle for sure, and likely the two other students involved in Wednesday’s competition, will be eligible for the national bee and bowl, which starts, April 25 in the Washington, D.C., area. Students pay their own way.

“That’s a lot of cookie sales,” Boyle was thinking.

As for the difficulty of the questions asked of the girls, Kreifels himself figured he might have gotten a third of them correctincorrect, and maybe “had a clue” about most of the others. The Jeopardy-style format, with lengthy preambles to each question, make the competition more difficult.

The History Bee and Bowl was, in fact, started by a former Jeopardy champ, and many of the TV gameshow’s alums help with the competition. Kreifels describes past national championship events as full of history geeks (my term, not his) feverishly debating the latest Wikipedia entry.

For his part, Kreifels is just happy if his students come away with a glimmer of the idea that, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

“If I can make it more interesting, I’ve done my job,” Kreifels said.

Note: This blog has been updated to correct the name of the one president other than Bill Clinton who has been impeached. The original version had Jackson, not Johnson.