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ODU’s Blue Crab Bowl Celebrates 25 Years of Bringing Ocean Science to Virginia High School Students

By Tiffany Whitfield

For 25 years, the Blue Crab Bowl has caused a ripple effect in generations of scientists. Some former bowl participants have become coaches, training future ocean scientists and advocates.

Those generations of competitors gathered recently to participate in the 25th Blue Crab Bowl virtually. But the unconventional setting for the annual science competition didn't dampen the passion of the competitors.

Seventy high school students and 13 teams from across Virginia participated in the event, hosted by Old Dominion University's Department of Ocean & Earth Sciences (OES) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), from Feb. 11 to 12.

"Even though we were forced to host the 25th annual Blue Crab Bowl virtually, we were impressed by the enthusiasm of our competing teams and the excitement they showed in our Zoom room environment," said Bill Dunn, ODU's regional coordinator and a former Blue Crab Bowl coach.

Students and their coaches worked for months to prepare for this buzzer-beating competition stemmed in questions about ocean science, biology, geology, chemistry, physics, marine policy and maritime history.

Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Glenns took home first prize.

"Congratulations to the competitors and Coach Sara Beam of Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Glenns on its first-place finish," said Fred Dobbs, professor and chair of OES. "I know the more than 70 volunteers from ODU and VIMS who contributed to this year's Bowl wish you the very best of luck as you enter the national competition."

The full list of winners for the 2022 Blue Crab Bowl competition are as follows:

1st Place: Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Glenns

2nd place: Norfolk Collegiate School

3rd place: Broadwater Academy

4th place: Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Warsaw

"When we heard that we won, we were just totally elated and it was a really great feeling to have our efforts rewarded against a tough field of competitors," said Beam, a marine and environmental science teacher at CBGSG.

The winning team members are Dylan White (captain and senior), Brenna Hendrix (senior), Erik Graulich (junior), Joshua Mayer (junior) and Paige Baldwin (junior). The students met twice a week in the evenings for more than a month, and relied primarily on theircourse learning for our success.

"Since all CBGSG students take a series of marine courses in our curriculum, it really helps to prepare them for the Blue Crab Bowl," Beam said. "Our team really had fun competing and worked great together."

Here is the full list of participating schools from the 2022 Blue Crab Bowl:

  • Albemarle High School
  • Broadwater Academy
  • Catholic High School
  • Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Glenns campus
  • Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Warsaw campus
  • Churchland High School
    Governor's School for Science and Technology
  • Isle of Wight Academy A and B
  • Norfolk Collegiate A and B
  • Seton School
  • Tidewater Academy

ODU and VIMS have partnered on this regional competition since 1998. More than 2,000 students from 61 schools across the Commonwealth of Virginia have participated in this science Olympics of the mind. Some of the coaches at the participating schools were once competitors. The coaches for Norfolk Collegiate and Broadwater Academy both matriculated through the ODU OES graduate program.

"A lot of students have gone on to become officials in regional competitions wherever they've landed as adults," said Carol Hopper-Brill, a retired marine education specialist and longtime Blue Crab Bowl participant. "If you participate, you value what the competitions about and you want other young people to have that same experience."

Former student competitors have pursued careers in marine sciences or other sciences. Some have even crossed paths with current organizers.

"One year, we went to invite our congressional representatives to support the regional bowls," Hopper-Brill said. "We went to one office and, lo and behold, the legislative aide who met with us had participated in the Blue Crab Bowl. Now he was working as a congressional aide. It's so important to have people who understand or value science in positions like that."

As one of the original 15 regional bowls in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, the Blue Crab Bowl has never missed a year in its 25-year history.

"We certainly had a challenge this year with COVID necessitating a second year of a virtual Blue Crab Bowl, and we could not have done it without the great support of the volunteers from the OES and VIMS faculty, staff and students," Dunn said.

"It's a fun event, and that shows in the number of coaches who bring their kids back year after year, and in the volunteer response," Smith said. "It's exciting to think how the competition will continue to grow in the next 25 years."

Organizers from ODU and VIMS said they miss hosting high school teams on campus, at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, the Friday main campus science tours and spending time aboard the R/V Fay Slover, but they hope to be back together next year at VIMS.

"We are all still smiling about the whole thing," Beaman said. "We really look forward to getting back to the in-person competition next year."

Chesapeake Bay Governor's School for Marine and Environmental Science - Glenns' campus is part of the public school system and a regional selection-based, academic year Governor's school in the Middle Peninsula of Virginia. CBGSG offers a rigorous STEM education, focused on hands-on learning and a research-based curriculum with course work specifically in marine and environmental sciences from 10th to 12th grades.

Chesapeake Bay Governor's School - Glenns will go on to compete in the National Ocean Science Bowl, to be held virtually on May 6 to 15.

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