Competitive clubs at WJ thriving in a pandemic

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Photo courtesy of Katherine Simmons

Due to the pandemic, students have utilized Zoom for club meetings and to prepare for future competitions.

WJ is notorious for their competitive clubs when competing at other places throughout the country and state. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the structure of club meetings and competitions have transformed to a completely virtual setting.

Many clubs such as the Mock Trial club, WJ DECA club, and Science Olympiad club, revealed the changes they have experienced in their clubs.

Mock Trial

After tirelessly competing against teams all across the state of Maryland, the WJ Mock Trial Club has made the playoffs to the State Quarter Final. The WJ Mock Trial Club is a club where WJ students work on a new casebook provided by the state of Maryland every year. Students begin preparing the new case in October where they become lawyers and witnesses, with 12 competing members in total. The students who are lawyers study the case, and come up with a timeline of events, possible theories that they want to prove in the case and develop a theme they are trying to get across through their opening argument, their examination of witnesses and their closing argument. Witnesses also study the casebook, especially their affidavit and any other evidence that directly pertains to the witness they portray. The club practices one a week as a whole team over zoom. In a normal year, trials take place in the Rockville Courthouse, with one judge presiding and competing against other Montgomery County teams. Due to COVID, all trials took place over zoom which allowed the WJ Mock Trial clun to compete against teams from across the state of Maryland. Social Studies teacher Katherine Simmons is the coach on record along with retired WJ teacher Steve Miller as a coach and mentor. Both WJ teams are known around the county as teams to watch out for in Mock Trial and consistently make it to the playoffs. The WJ Mock Trial club is known for their professionalism and strong cross examinations of witnesses.

“… the team that we had this year was the strongest I have ever seen and I am incredibly proud of all of them. They put in a lot of work to be able to perform as a superior team not only in Montgomery County this year but in the whole state,” Simmons said.

WJ DECA

WJ’s DECA students are known for their high-profile performances and regional and statewide awards. The WJ ​DECA/FBLA is a club dedicated to students who would like to explore the areas of business, entrepreneurship, marketing, hospitality, and tourism. Students meet each week to discuss topics covering these areas and prepare for competitions using Kahoots, Quizlets, core content books, etc to help each other practice interviewing and simulation-oriented activities. The WJ ​DECA/FBLA is composed of DECA, the Distributive Education Clubs of America – which focuses on business, finance, marketing and hospitality. The FBLA, the Future Business Leaders of America, focuses on entrepreneurship, finance, marketing and sales. Students utilize resources on Kahoot, Quizlet, Gimkit and other gaming software websites to help make learning fun. This allows students to work together or learn individually in their respective subject areas to apply that knowledge in competition. Students attend around six competitions each year, two regional competitions, two state competitions and two national/international competitions. Students also attend any invitations while they are lacking due to COVID. Also due to COVID, interview sessions are videotaped or conducted via zoom, so the experience is not the same. Students can get into a room and talk to people about their scenario, ask for their advice about careers in business, etc allowing students to gain firsthand learning experience that in-person competitions do provide. Students have qualified for the DECA Nationals competition in which they will be competing in late April at the DECA ICDC (International Career Development Conference).

​”…our students have done very well this year. Last year, we were thrilled that Tim Moore (class of 2020) placed third in personal financial literacy and qualified for DECA Nationals competition (ICDC). But this year, our students won regional awards, won statewide, AND qualified for DECA Nationals competition. They will be competing in late April at the DECA ICDC (International Career Development Conference), which will be held virtually this year,” social studies teacher Timothy Rodman said.

Science Olympiad

Many WJ clubs have only competed locally in the past but this year WJ’s Science Olympiad club has competed against approximately 300 teams from all over the nation. WJ Science Olympiad is a club based on interscholastic competitions on different aspects of science and engineering. Studies explore different topics from sound physics to epidemiology to forensics. Students prepare for different forms of competition, such as traditional pencil-and-paper exams, physical labs that involve mixing chemicals together, and live demonstrations of prepared builds. The WJ Science Olympiad is organized in three different levels: the officers, the event leaders, and the club members. The officers do the traditional administrative stuff and work with the sponsors directly; the event leaders are the club’s way to organize the different events, who act within the club as coaches for their events. Students prepare for competitions asynchronously by holding weekly lessons and discussions to help facilitate learning and by preparing by themselves on their own time. Each season, students attend five to seven competitions, starting in December. Due to the pandemic, tournaments are all strictly online causing students to have the opportunity to attend more tournaments than usual.

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