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By Ed Moreth 

Brain games test students


December 26, 2019

Ed Moreth

TEAMWORK – Duncan Chisholm (left) and Treydon Brouillette of team Chefs lift teammate Wyatt Butcher up to place his block on top of the Giant Jenga stack. The Chefs received 40 points.

Having to think on the last day of school of the calendar year can be tough, unless it's a fun kind of thinking and can lead to bragging rights and a prize. 

For two hours Friday morning, just over 180 students participated in the annual Brain Bash competition to kick off the Christmas vacation at Plains School. With the theme of "What I Want to be When I Grow Up," just over 180 students on 14 teams from seventh grade to seniors went through more than a dozen stations set up around the school.

The teams had seven minutes, instead of the traditional 10, at each station and could get a maximum of 100 points at each one. The stations tested the students' mental and physical skills, and most involved some type of team building exercise. 

This year's 14 teams were named for professional careers - Police, Chefs, Baristas, Lumberjacks, Astronauts, Musicians, Cowboys, Zookeepers, Artists, Lawyers, Pro Golfers, Butchers, Bodybuilders, and even Gamers. A portion of the students dressed up in their team profession, such as Kallen Burrows of the Zookeepers and Alex Horodyski of the Lumberjacks. Nearly all of the Police donned special badges.

The stations had a variety of challenges, such as teacher Ken Nelson's first year of "Behind the Line" game, which was a combination of shuffleboard and bowling with 10 different difficulty levels. Paraeducator Heather Worrall for the first time had a Candy Cane Drop, where students had to stand atop a chair and drop a candy cane and hook it on decorative garland below. Another first was Gutter Ball, where teams had to use short sections of PVC pipe to relay a golf ball from one end of the gymnasium to the other and get it into a trash can without dropping it or touching it. 

This is the sixth year for shop teacher Kyle Mitchell to have his Giant Jenga competition, where teams got 10 points for each added row. Probably the oldest game was science teacher Carl Benson's Endangered Species Shooting Gallery, which he has been doing for almost 10 years. The students used cork guns to shoot pictures of game animals, some stationary, some moving. In the past, they lost points if they hit an endangered species animal, but not last week. "They cut our time down so this year I let them shoot at everything, even the endangered species," said Benson.   

Superintendent Thom Chisholm believes the school has held a Brain Bash since 1995. Principal Kevin Meredith added the seventh and eighth grade students to the Brain Bash four years ago when the high school enrollment was down.

The competition was run by 18 Jobs For Montana Graduates (JMG) students. Nichole Cockrell, who teaches JMG, dressed up in a fortune teller outfit for the competition. The JMG class started planning for this year's competition a month ago.

"It's the best way for us to enter the Christmas break," said Meredith. "I think they're having a good time. I'm seeing a lot of competitive attitude," said Cockrell, who felt the teachers were having as much fun as the kids.

Each team had an average of nine to 14 members, although the Pro Golf team, headed by senior Jeremiah Allen, was the only one with just seven members. The golfers, which took turns carrying a 90-pound golf bag from station to station, finished with a score of 594. 

Competitors also had to contend with JMG students Levi Weatherly and Wyatt Horton, who were rounding students up for "jail" and could get free only after passing a special quiz.

Ed Moreth

FINAL POINT – The Plains School teachers and staff drop their last golf ball into the trash can in the Gutter Ball competition.

First place in the Brain Bash contest went to the Baristas, which chocked up 778 points. Each team member won a $5 gift certificate for McGowan Grocery. Contestants of the second place team, the Zookeepers, which totaled 762.5 points, each took home a king size candy bar. Third place went to the Gamers with 752 points. Each member received a regular size candy bar. The fourth place team was the Police with 563 points.

The JMG students had their chance to some playtime after Brain Bash with a contest against the staff members in a round of Gutter Ball. The staff first tried to start early, but halfway down had to go back. A restart didn't stop either team from cheating, said emcee Kelsey Standeford, a JMG student who also witnessed Meredith pull a golf ball from his pocket when his team dropped one. Despite a good start, the students pulled ahead for a 16-10 score.


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