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Bellevue East prepares for this weekend's state academic decathlon with new teacher

Last year, the team made it to nationals
Posted at 6:42 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 19:42:56-05

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — Test-taking can create nerves for some, while others welcome the task, even making it into a hobby.

"I'm more academically strengthened, and this was just my sort of thing: studying a bunch of random facts about a certain topic that interests me," said Maame Ayensuaboagye, a member of the Bellevue East academic decathlon team.

High school teams across Nebraska are preparing for the state academic decathlon competition, Bellevue East being one of them.

The Chiefs, unlike many other schools, have a class period dedicated to academic decathlon where students participating in the competition partake.

Every year the decathlon has a topic that all 10 subjects will be about. This year's topic is water. Students will compete in subjects such as math, literature, art and speech with a central focus on water.

"Water within science, we’ll talk about the atomic structure, the different animals that live in it and how global warming and things like that. And then art or literature, it’ll be a book about water or like nautical fiction or with art, watercolors, art that portrays water in some sort way," Ayensuaboagye said.

Students spend months learning and memorizing all they can about the topic.

This year's team is made up of some returning members, others new.

"It’s been an experience," first-time team member Seth Kline said. "I’ve been trying for the past few years to get on the team. Other people have simply scored better so it feels good to finally be able to prove myself, and prove that I have what it takes, and I have a chance to actually compete."

New members of the organization also include the team's teacher and coach, Nate Hindman. He is taking over for the previous coach, Mr. Simmons, who led the team to nationals last year.

"Some big shoes to fill, so I’m trying not to feel too overwhelmed," Hindman said. "I’m trying to build off a foundation Simmons left because he did an amazing job building the program, recruiting the program, getting kids excited about it. So when I came into it, I’m trying to continue his reputation and the history of the program, and also add my own stuff to it."

Hindman says one thing he likes to do is incorporate experiences and real-world applications to what they learn. After finishing the art lesson, the students had an art day, painting pieces they had learned about and following along with Bob Ross. After the music lesson, they went to a symphony.

"Just trying to add ways to incorporate appreciation of all the stuff, so it’s not just reading and test-taking but after we’ve learned this, where can they experience it out in the world," Hindman said.

The veteran team members say while Mr. Simmons had a winning record, they appreciate Mr. Hindman and say he's doing a great job.

"We’ve gone to state for as long as I can remember and all our other competitions we do traditionally well. And last year we went to nationals for the first time with Mr. Simmons, so hopefully we can continue it this year," Bennett Schliesser, a team member, said.

Those who are experiencing their first year on the team express being happy to do it with Hindman.

"It definitely feels like we’re going into it at the same time,"Kline said. "We’re all together, diving headfirst."

Hindman says he's confident in the students' ability, although he is a little nervous with it being his first year.

"I'm super proud of the kids and really confident. They’ve been pushing themselves, helping each other on the interviews and speeches," Hindman said. "I’d say they’ve done everything I’ve asked of them and gone above and beyond."

The state competition will take place on Friday and Saturday at Bellevue University.

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