The good part was that parents were allowed to watch as students competed in their grade-based groups - 2 rounds of 30 questions for an Academic Bee competition. and 3 rounds of 30 for Science Bee. The premise is that the student who answers the first and correctly to clues given in the paragraph describing the concept or a person gets a point and "exits" a round once he or she gets 6 points. If one exits the round early, then this person gets extra points, with the 15 being the maximum number of points per round. Each group had about 8 students, and there were several groups competing in parallel in different rooms.
Academic Bee was first, and I was amazed at the kids participating in this competition. I consider myself relatively well educated, but I had answers to only about 25% of questions before someone buzzed in with the correct answer to questions that ranged from mythology to mathematics. Smarty, however, held out her own amazingly well, and got out with total of 13 points in Academic Bee rounds - enough to qualify for Nationals but not enough to participate in the final round where 6 kids battled for the first, second, and third place. Interestingly, she missed all literature and history questions, but she "ruled" in mythology and science.
Science bee rounds were in the afternoon. Smarty already knew that she is going to the Nationals, but she said that she would only really want to change summer plans and go to Chicago if she qualifies for science National competitions. Again, I was very impressed with how all the kids in the room knew answers to very obscure questions. I was even more impressed with discovering that my little Smarty, 2 years younger than most kids in that room, could keep up. She was second or third in each of her three rounds, exited with 25 points total and qualified for science Nationals and for the final round for Northern California placement. She placed third in the finals beating amazing students from some very well known schools in our area and totally blew my own mind in the process. It looks like I really underestimate her abilities and focus maybe a little too much on her flaws :)
Of course, I was happy about Smarty doing so well in this competition. But what made me even happier was the praise she received from many parents watching the competition. Smarty was happy, open, engaging, and supportive of others. She complimented other kids and was really sweet with the kids who did not do well. Watching her made me realize that she is thriving in this environment where she is surrounded by equally smart kids who choose to spend her Saturday answering science questions "for fun and glory". She enjoyed this experience a lot and now hopes to organize an academic bowl team in her school, so she can participate again next year (all high school events are team-based). She is eagerly looking forward to National competitions even though I doubt that she has a chance to place there - two kids who won the first and second place were absolutely amazing and way ahead of her in the finals. But... the important part is to have this experience and I am happy that she might have an opportunity to meet smart kids across an entire country in the Nationals.