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Cheney Middle School trio hopes to make history in Atlanta


Mike Stark

Cheney Middle School History Bee team students from left to right: Marianne Pollard, Paige King, Michael Nester and Isaac Strong.

What are the great themes of world history up to 1492? How about 1492 to 1933? OK, 1933 to the present?

OK, maybe something closer to home. How's your understanding of the causes of the Whiskey Rebellion? Why was the battle of Midway important? Who was D.W. Griffith, or John Nance Garner?

If you don't know, you'll likely survive but you might want to bone up a bit more on your history. If you do know, and are a current or incoming Cheney Middle School student, you should look up history teacher Daniel Hilliard because he might have a chance for a slot for you on next year's History Bee team.

The National History Bee is a 3-year-old competition similar to the National Geography Bee, Hilliard said, except of course it tests the contestant's knowledge of history. Cheney Middle School has been participating in the competition for the past two years, and it's proven to be popular among the more historically inclined.

Hilliard said he expected about 20 students this year, but ended up with much more than that at the team's first meeting in January.

"I was surprised I had every seat taken and some standing," Hilliard said of the over 30 that showed up to his classroom.

Hilliard starts the students off slow, meeting once a week at the beginning. The first meeting is spent getting students familiarized with how the bee works and playing some history quiz games.

The second and third weeks the students, who gather during lunch hour, continue the question and answer session but under more of a "Jeopardy-type" format using buzzers to ring in. Questions start out rather vague, but get more specific as the clock ticks. It is during this time, Hilliard said, that some kids decide maybe this isn't for them.

"By then, the competitors are beginning to dwindle away," he said. "They realize some kids are pretty smart."

Those remaining in the fourth week take an "Online Regional Qualifying Exam," a 70-question multiple choice exam administered through the National History Bee website. From there, the top four scorers in each school are invited to compete in one of 37 regional finals, with Washington's regionals held March 8 at Seattle's Hamilton Middle School.

Regional finals consist of several question answer/rounds, with contestants accumulating points. The top-10 scorers are then invited to compete in the National History Bee finals at The Hilton in Atlanta, Ga., June 6-8, for a chance at becoming National History Bee champion and winning a $5,000 scholarship prize.

A rough count of names on the National History Bee website indicated over 550 students could be taking part in competition this weekend.

The four CMS students making the trip to Seattle were Marianne Pollard, Paige King, Michael Nester and Isaac Strong; with King, Nester and Strong getting an invitation to Atlanta and Pollard missing by just a couple of points.

It's an invitation, Hilliard said, because a number of students can't afford the trip. The CMS students are fortunate, he added, because the school district has stepped up to pay their way to the competition.

According to an email from CMS principal Mike Stark, the trip costs for the district will run $2,147.96. For Stark, it's money well spent.

"These types of opportunities are learning experiences that cannot be duplicated in the classroom," he said.

John McCallum can be reached at


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