What do you get when you combine knowledge, teamwork, and some friendly competition? The Academic Team at SFC.
Students on this hard-working team compete against other schools using their collective smarts. The Academic Team allows students to exercise and expand upon what they’re learning in the classroom – and have fun while doing it.
What is the Academic Team at SFC?
Steve Kim, SFC Upper School Bible teacher and Academic Team Coach, likens the Academic Team to Jeopardy. “We compete with other schools on all kinds of academic subjects,” he says. “It’s a wide range of everything they’ve learned with questions from math to science, literature, and foreign languages.”
The team competes against other schools every week from January to March, culminating in playoffs at the end of the season.
What Students Do on the Academic Team
Just as sports teams dedicate time to practice leading up to a game or tournament, the Academic Team prepares thoroughly for competitions. The team holds a few weeks of preparation before matches start, then transitions to practicing once a week during lunchtime throughout the season.
During these practices, the team discusses current events to prepare for any questions that might come up about what’s happening in the world. Then, Mr. Kim runs the team through the kinds of questions the students are asked during matches.
“There are two kinds of questions,” Mr. Kim explains. “There’s what’s called a toss-up question, and then there’s a bonus question.” Toss-up questions are thrown out to both teams. If a team answers that question correctly, they receive a bonus question that involves multiple parts and several answers.
What Students Learn on the Academic Team
Students who join the Academic Team gain diverse knowledge, valuable life lessons, and meaningful experiences. They get the chance to put what they’re learning in their classes to use. Mr. Kim says he witnesses students experience the “joy of connection” when they’re able to answer questions based on something they just learned in class.
In addition to the head-knowledge students on the Academic Team gain, they also learn to work together on a team. The time constraints they compete under make good teamwork critical.
Students on the SFC Academic Team also learn the importance of trying, even if they fail. Mr. Kim says he “always encourages them to guess, even if there’s a penalty,” and that it’s okay to walk away with negative points because it means they took a chance. This teaches students to push past the fear of failure and to keep trying — a life skill that will continue to serve them.
How Students Can Join the Academic Team
Any student can join the Academic Team at SFC. As Mr. Kim says, “If you want to be on the team, you’re on the team.”
The teams are split based on grade level:
- Freshman – 9th-grade students
- JV – 10th and 11th graders
- Varsity – 12th-grade seniors
Five people compete on a team at once, so Mr. Kim aims to have between eight and 10 students on each team. If there are more interested students than spots on the team, they hold a one-time tryout. In this case, making the team depends on how students score and answer the questions.
Students can sign up for the Academic Team at the club fair that happens in September, and an announcement is made at the first meeting, closer to the spring season.
How Participating on the Academic Team Helps Students in the Long Run
Joining the Academic Team benefits students’ growth in the here and now, and it also prepares them for long-term success.
One major skill set students walk away with is the ability to lead. Every member of the team gets a turn to be a team captain for a match. The team captain is the spokesperson, gathering information from the rest of the team and speaking out answers. This helps students learn to rally a team and helps them reach a consensus.
Especially for shy kids, participating on the Academic Team helps students break out of their shells. If they know the answer to a question, they speak up for the sake of their team, and this helps them build confidence.
Finally, being on the Academic Team equips students to make quick decisions under pressure. “They only have 20 seconds to answer after the last question is said,” Mr. Kim explains. This forces the team to think on their feet and to divide responsibility when multiple questions are asked.
A Great Place to Learn and Have Fun
Participating in the Academic Team is a fun way for students to learn and make friends. As Mr. Kim puts it, “Even if we get demolished, the kids are still having fun. You’re doing things that bring you joy, even if it’s not cutthroat competitive.”