Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 4:00 PM on Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Enthusiastic current returns HHS to ocean bowl

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

After a seven-year absence, Homer High School is sending not just one, but two teams to the Alaska Tsunami Ocean Sciences Bowl, to be held in Seward March 2-4.

Team members Traven Apiki, Katherine Dolma, Dylan Faulkner, Axel Gillam, Sabina Karwowski, Jonas Noomah, Josh Vantrease and John Walsworth are hard at work tackling this year's subject: ecosystem-based management of Alaska's commercial fisheries. The competition includes a 20-page research project and a quiz bowl in which teams from around the state answer rapid-fire questions testing their knowledge of the subject. Teams must develop a plan for implementing an ecosystem-based approach to managing a local marine fishery in response to changes caused by pollution, habitat loss, overfishing and other parameters such as climate change. The Homer teams are being coached by Brenda Dolma, Kris Holdereid of the Kasitsna Bay Lab, Barbie Failor of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Carmen Field and Catie Bursch of the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and Lisa Matlock of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last spring, after hearing about the bowl and learning Homer didn't have a team, Dolma decided to see if there was interest among students to change that. "I went to the middle school science teacher and high school teachers and asked them for any students they felt might be interested in something like this. Then I made personal contact with each of the kids that the teachers recommended," said Dolma, who also contacted local scientists to put together a coaching team.

"(Homer) scientists have participated as judges for quite a number of years and they've asked why Homer didn't have a team, but teachers are very, very busy. Most teachers sponsor one or two clubs, have classes and other tasks," said Dolma, who was reminded of teachers' many commitments while substitute teaching at Homer High earlier this school year. She proposed that local scientists offer mini lessons and practice sessions with the students interested in being on a team.

Eight of the students Dolma contacted have made the commitment to participate. They will form two teams, one focusing only on the quiz bowl and one that will tackle the research assignment as well as the quiz bowl. Only teams competing in the quiz bowl and completing a research assignment are eligible to win.

"It's a huge, broad topic, a fabulous topic," said Dolma.

Although the quiz portion of the competition is in March, the research projects are due Dec. 1.

"We're blessed with something called 'Focus on Learning,' that provides 45 minutes a week that is very helpful," said Dolma of Homer High School's "FOL" that offers students an opportunity to work on projects of personal interest. The ocean bowl team is using it as a time to meet with their coaches. Research is done on their own time. "The kids are totally jazzed. It's not just one team, but two. Every kid that's interested in going will participate."

Holdereid first became involved with the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in the 1990s, when she volunteered as a judge in Virginia. After coming to the peninsula in 2005, she began serving as a judge in Alaska region bowls in Seward. This is her first year to participate as a coach.

"It takes that combination of interest for someone at the school, interest of coaches and interest in the kids, everyone coming together," she said. "This year it's Brenda Dolma, who has energy plus. She very smartly reached out to those of us that have been involved in one level or another. Suddenly we have critical mass. ... What's most important is that we have kids interested and excited about doing it. Without that, it never works."

This year's event also includes a juried art show with the theme "ocean connection." It is open to all ocean-themed artwork created by students in all four years of high school enrolled at schools participating in the competition. Students do not have to be members of a team to submit. The artwork must be original and created entirely by the student during the current school year. It is open to all media, including drawing, painting, photography, original prints, mixed media, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, textiles and computer graphics. Submissions will be juried by a panel of professional working artists.

This will be Alaska's 15th Tsunami Bowl, with the first one held in 1998. The research topic is determined by Dean Stockwell of the University of Alaska Fairbank's Institute of Marine Science after soliciting ideas from coaches and scientists. The volunteer judges are selected by Stockwell based on their knowledge of the topic and experience with scientific writing and presentations, said bowl coordinator Phyllis Shoemaker.

Past winners for the Alaska region have been: East High School in Anchorage, 1998; Juneau-Douglas High School, 1999-2001; Kodiak High School, 2002; Juneau-Douglas High School, 2003-2005; Seward High School, 2006; Juneau-Douglas High School 2007-2011. Homer participated in 2003 and 2004.

In addition to Homer, other teams participating this year are from Cordova, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Juneau-Douglas, Juneau-Thunder Mountain, Kenny Lake, Ketchikan, Kotlik, Kotzebue, Mat-Su Career and Technical High School, Mountain Village, Petersburg, Scammon Bay, Seward, Sitka, Soldotna, Unalaska and Wasilla. The winning team represents Alaska against teams from across the nation in the U.S. National Ocean Sciences Bowl in Baltimore, Md., in April.

For more information, visit the Web at seagrant.uaf.edu/nosb/index.html.