On March 1, Washington Sea Grant and other programs and schools from the University of Washington College of the Environment hosted the 2014 Orca Bowl on the UW campus. More than 100 students from 13 Washington state high schools competed at the event, focused this year on ocean acidification. This year, Everett’s ORCA high school team took top honors, and newcomer Redmond High placed second.

Buzzers buzzed. Teams huddled. Volunteers dressed as sea creatures roamed the halls. Hundreds of scientists, costumed volunteers, inspiring high school teachers, and passionate students from Seattle to Soap Lake came together for a day of fun, friendly competition. The winning team will represent Washington state at the 17th annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl in May, held for the first time in Seattle.

“This is an incredible opportunity for participating Washington high schools,” said Maile Sullivan, who coordinates Orca Bowl for Washington Sea Grant. “For some teens, especially those from the inland schools, this may be the first time they get to tour actual marine science labs or meet real scientists who work on the same issues that the kids study during the competition. It’s set more than one past participant on a path to become a marine science, policy or education expert in our region.”

Throughout Orca Bowl, all of the teen participants connected with UW faculty and marine professionals to learn about study programs and professional careers that fit their passions. With the impacts of ocean acidification reaching our shores, cities like Seattle and Tacoma need this talented, creative generation of marine scientists to help tackle 21st century ocean and coastal challenges.

“We’ve developed a Friday class modeled after ORCA Bowl where students develop their own strategies for using knowledge from traditional science courses,” said Kainoa Higgins, science teacher and Orca Bowl coach at Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute (SAMI). “We even hostthe ‘SAMI bowl-off,’ a school competition to decide which team earns the right to represent our school on the regional level. It’s been a wonderful way to enhance our science curriculum, and students have started making connections between real-world marine research and their Orca Bowl quiz topics.”

You can also listen to a story about the Orca Bowl on KLPU.
By: Meg Matthews, Washington Sea Grant

Getting dressed up for the Orca Bowl
WA Sea Grant