EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — After two hours of yelling, hastily scribbled answers and prizes, it came down to this: six high school freshmen standing onstage, desperately trying to drop Mentos off their forehead and into open bottles of Diet Coke that their teachers had carefully placed in the middle of blue tarps.
Nearly 700 of their fellow students screamed when first Jacob Horn, 15, representing the Blue Team, plopped a mint into the soda. This triggered a foamy rush of soda that rose in a 5-foot-high, taupe-colored column.
Team Purple’s Aditya Joshi, 15, followed, leaving only one space left for the finals.
The white candies repeatedly bounced off the bottles’ lip, neck, sides until … until … until … Hau Pham, 16, in the red shirt, finally made the soda surge. He just made it.
These three were going to the finals.
Friday was the Freshman Challenge, designed by their teachers at Egg Harbor Township High School as a way to get students reviewing the material they learned throughout the school year.
The event encompassed several rounds of Jeopardy!-style quizzes, punctuated by gift drawings and the Mentos drop. Each round winnowed the contestants down, with the overall winner getting a $200 savings bond, two tickets to Great Adventure and a lunch for the winner’s class catered by Atlantic City’s swanky Palm Restaurant.
Michael C. Martirone, a social studies teacher at the school, said the challenge was put on with the help of the Egg Harbor Township Foundation, which received a $500 grant, and prizes donated by area businesses. He said the event helped show students how the community supported them.
Some of the prizes included Wawa gift cards, a $50 iTunes card and a gift certificate to Applebee’s restaurant.
The goal of it all was to get students interested in reviewing their material, challenging them to beat their classmates.
“We were looking for a way to engage the kids, to make it fun, relevant and engaging,” Martirone said, “and to let them know you can’t just throw it (what they learned) away at the end of the year.”
The questions ranged from math to English to history — all topics the students covered during the school year.
After answering enough questions, and getting their Mentos in the bottle, Joshi, Pham and Horn were brought onstage for the final round. There were sheets of laminated paper at the edge of the auditorium, with historic events printed on them.
The first to arrange five events in chronological order would walk off with the grand prize.
The three rushed to the edge and grabbed a handful of sheets, then ran back to large, white boards.
Joshi quickly pinned up “Athens Develops Democracy,” as Pham placed “Hammurabi’s Code,” the first formal, written law at the top of his board.
Pham then rapidly pinned “Cortes vs. Aztecs” in the New World and “Louis XIV and Versailles” in France while Joshi seemed to have problems pinning words to his board.
Horn carefully arranged his historical phrases, but Pham then pinned up “The Fall of the Bastille” in France and “Stalin’s Purge,” following the Soviet revolution and it was over.
His teachers led Pham to the center of the stage. There they handed him a $200 oversized check with “EHT” and “Eagles” spelled out in golden glitter and his own name written in dry-erase marker, two Great Adventure passes and a golden medal.
Pham had won the Freshman Challenge. He and his classmates quickly left for their lunch from The Palm.
Are you smarter than a freshman?
Here are some of the questions posed to students in Friday's Freshman Challenge:
1. Solve for r: 5(r-1) = 2(r-4)-6
2. Noah's age is three years less than twice Tina's age. The sum of their ages is 24. How old is Noah?
3. When an author's word choice creates a feeling in the reader, that is called the ...
4. The term for an all-knowing narrator is ...
5. If seven people are running a race, how many different ways can the gold, silver and bronze medals be awarded?
6. Who sparked the Protestant Reformation by posting the 95 Theses?
7. What are the monomers of DNA and RNA?
8. In "The Scarlet Ibis," author James Hurst uses a symbol to foreshadow the ending of the story. What is the symbol?
9. What is the term for the common, every-day language of a people?
1. r= -3 2. Noah is 15. 3. mood. 4. omniscient. 5. 210 6. Martin Luther 7. Nucleotides 8. A dead bird. 9. Vernacular
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