Healdsburg takes top honors in middle school Pentathlon

Carlotta Rodriguez knew that Archimedes' principle concerns buoyancy.

"We had just been talking about that today," the Geyserville Middle School eighth-grader said Thursday after her group correctly answered a question on the topic at the northern Sonoma County Academic Pentathlon.

The 10th annual event gives middle school students from varied academic backgrounds a chance to show their knowledge of history, math, literature and science.

Rodriguez likened it to athletic competition, "but this is competing against the mind."

Five schools sent nine-member teams, plus alternates, to Cook Middle School in Santa Rosa. Using a model similar to the Academic Decathlon for high school students, they spent a day taking quizzes about sonnets, square roots and slavery in the pre-Civil War United States. They also wrote essays after selecting a famous person's quote or a proverb.

In the evening, the teams competed publicly, answering questions on science. Among other things, students needed to know how many times stronger the acceleration of gravity is on the earth compared to the moon. (Answer: six times).

They also needed to know that as elevation increases, air pressure decreases and that a siphon is an example of Pascal's Law.

When the competition had ended the overall winner was Healdsburg Junior High.

Each team's members are placed into one of three divisions based on grade-point averages: Varsity, for those below 3.0, Scholastic for those from 3.0 to 3.74, and Honors for those above 3.74.

In the Varsity division, Windsor Middle school earned first place. Washington School from Cloverdale took first in the Scholastic division and Healdsburg placed first in the Honors division.

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