Quiz Bowl Helps Middle School Girls Build Confidence

Through Quiz Bowl, Hutchison middle school girls are focusing on academics and becoming stronger students while gaining teamwork and leadership skills.
When watching Jeopardy or any sort of trivia game show, buzzing in to answer can seem intuitive, but building the confidence to do so takes time. Through middle school Quiz Bowl, not only are Hutchison girls becoming more certain in their knowledge, but they are also learning to work together in a competitive setting.

Quiz Bowl is competitive academic trivia for middle school students. It’s fast-paced and full of action. Compared to most trivia competitions, the questions start broad and narrow down. Question topics include geography, geometry, chemistry, history, literature, and pop culture. The wide range of questions helps students build connections across disciplines. Sometimes, the content shows up in their coursework first; for some students, it appears in Quiz Bowl first and in coursework later.

“I love seeing when they get a question and say, ‘Oh, we learned this in class’ or ‘Oh we read that in sixth grade,’ ” Robby Uhrman, who founded Hutchison’s Quiz Bowl team, said.

Uhrman, an eighth grade English teacher at Hutchison, had seen students enjoy Quiz Bowl at other schools and started a team at Hutchison because he saw it as an opportunity to bring an extracurricular activity that’s academics-focused to middle school. Both Uhrman and Amanda Muir, who teaches seventh grade English at Hutchison, are involved with the team. Each practice involves going through question packets, and the girls can practice on their own at home as well. The teachers said they have seen the girls’ confidence grow as they gain experience.

“It’s scary for the girls to buzz in at the beginning of the year. I’ve seen girls have a knowing look while we’re reading questions but they don’t buzz. The girls get over that. They get more comfortable, aggressive, and more willing to be wrong. They get comfortable in their skin and enjoy the learning and competing side of it,” Uhrman said.

The Hutchison team competes at tournaments against other teams in Shelby County and in middle Tennessee. The team has seen a lot of growth since its start in fall 2021. At their first tournament in middle Tennessee in April 2022, they placed in the top 83% of the teams. In October 2023, they placed in the top 25% and will compete in Gallatin again in April. Both the highs of wins and the lows of losses help our girls grow, according to Uhrman and Muir.

“Experiencing defeat reminds them that there are students who are on their level or above their level. It motivates them to come back and study. They learn character and resilience. Some girls are emboldened by it to come back and work harder,” Uhrman said.

Several students have celebrated individual successes along the way as well. At the Gallatin competition in October, Menaal Haris ’28 placed 17th overall in individual scoring and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. In addition to practices at school, she often studies using Protobowl, an online Quiz Bowl site that has over 90,000 questions. 

“I feel proud when I get answers correct. There are times when I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I never knew that I knew that.’ There have been times when I buzzed in, I was unsure, I said the answer, and I got it right,” Menaal said. “It’s nice to see all my work pay off.”

Menaal said her Quiz Bowl experiences have helped her improve in many ways, from boosting her self-esteem in the classroom to teaching her leadership skills.

“I’m not afraid to say the things on my mind. It’s surprising how you can go from being nervous about getting an answer wrong to buzzing in and getting questions right. Suddenly, you believe in yourself more, and you’re not afraid to speak your mind,” Menaal said. “Sometimes, I look back and think about how I used to be: whining because I didn’t get a question and barely buzzing in because I wasn’t confident. Now, I’m buzzing in… and I also try to comfort my teammates if they get something wrong.”

Hutchison also recently hosted its first Quiz Bowl tournament, run by the team and several parent and faculty volunteers. Emma Doherty ’28 was inspired to organize the tournament after competing in Gallatin. Twelve teams from seven different schools, including one from Nashville and one from Mississippi, participated. “I feel grateful to Hutchison that they let us do things like this to help us grow,” Emma said.

Read More