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My Guide to High School Outreach

Posted: Fri May 31, 2019 10:48 pm
by meebles127
Outreach is extremely important in Quizbowl but the vast majority of the discussion I've seen around it seems to focus on the college level of play. Many of the tactics discussed for college outreach, however, don't translate that well to the game at the high school level. I've spent over a year working really hard to try and build up a small, disorganized team that I joined my freshman year of high school. Obviously, schools that already have large, established programs generally have a much easier time with outreach so I will be mainly focusing on smaller, less established programs. I'll be talking about recognition, school support, what does and does not work, as well as a few things to assist you with improving your team.

One of the most important things is when it comes to outreach is making sure that your school actually knows you exist.

Take a moment to think about how many club photos you saw when you flipped through your high school yearbook of organizations you had never heard of before. Don't let your quizbowl team become one of these organizations! I've met many students halfway into a season who finds out about our team and wants to join but unfortunately is unable to due to VHSL rules that prohibit adding players after a certain date.

How do you make sure people know that your club exists? Talk about it! Tell your friends about the team, ask your teammates to tell their friends about it, getting the word around that you exist will naturally lead to more interest. Additionally, if your school uses social media like Twitter or Facebook try to take advantage of that to promote your team. My school will retweet any tweet made by students or teachers about teams, clubs, or activities that are of substance. Here is an example of one of the tweets that my school has retweeted and this is an example of a tweet that our school posted after winning a state org match. Getting recognized by your school on their social media pages provides legitimacy to your organization as well as furthering the objective of making sure people know you exist.

Finding a faculty advisor that is willing to help foster your club, provide oversight, advocate on the club's behalf with your school's administration, and a classroom to use is essential. Here in Virginia, this is made somewhat easy because quizbowl is affiliated with the VHSL, under the activity "Scholastic Bowl", which requires teams to have a coach. Virtually all school divisions here pay these coaches a commensurate stipend based on their salary scales. Now, of course, I recognize that not everyone attends schools that provide stipends to their coaches or even recognizes your activity as an "official" one as they do here. Many schools require students wanting to form a club to find a faculty advisor as well as pitching a proposal to your school's administration, even if this is not required for forming your club it may be necessary to gain funding. When thinking about what teacher you want to ask to serve as your advisor take into account their current level of commitment to other activities (e.g. don't ask your school's football coach to be your quizbowl advisor) and how well you know them. If you are required to make a presentation to form your club or ask for funding I suggest talking about the various national organizations (NAQT, PACE), tournaments that occur at surrounding schools, the academic nature of the activity, and your personal zeal for the game. After your club is around for a while it might be worthwhile to try and ask your school to pay your advisor a stipend so that they can get recognition and support for the time they are taking out of their personal life to foster your team.

At this point, you probably either have a team that's really small or permission to form a new organization within your school. Now it is time to talk about seriously recruiting members for your team. I'm going to explain the techniques I've used in order of efficacy from least effective to most effective.

Announcements on your school's PA system: This is one of the most generic ways to disseminate information and sounds like a great idea in theory as the whole school can hear them but there's a huge catch when it comes to announcements like this. Most students care don't listen to the announcements that come over the PA system, and even if they want to they're often unable to hear them due to their peers being obnoxious. Running an announcement on the PA system, if your school allows it, is a good idea but definitely should not be your only form of recruitment. Don't expect to get many, if any people from announcements on the PA system.

Posters: If your school has a bulletin board where they allow clubs and other organizations to place posters on it is definitely wise to make use of that. Additionally, hanging posters on the walls of your school in prominent areas should be done if you're able to get permission to do so. Following a similar vein to the use of the PA system, I wouldn't expect a ton out of posters on the walls. Many people won't look at them and there is also a good chance half of them will get destroyed by random delinquents. This is a good idea, but definitely should be used in conjunction with other methods.

Asking teachers to talk about it in their classes: Starting this spring we have asked our freshmen and sophomore teachers to mention the team in their classes and had them direct any questions about the team to either myself or our coach. This is one of the more effective methods as students are hearing this in a smaller group where they are pretty much guaranteed to be listening as opposed to when an announcement is made over the PA system. This is personally how I joined my team during my freshman year of high school. I was breezing through the material in Chemistry and when I was sitting there bored one day after finishing an assignment my teacher suggested that I stop by the quizbowl practice that would be happening that afternoon. I showed up and immediately fell in love with the game and shortly after that, I played my first tournament.

Personal letters to students based on teacher recommendations: This is, in my experience, by far the best method of direct recruitment. About a week before my team's interest meeting for next season I spoke to every freshman and sophomore teacher asking for recommendations of students that they felt would be interested in the game or a good fit for the team. When doing this it is generally a good idea to briefly explain to the teachers you speak to what quizbowl is. I typically explain that it a game of academic knowledge and that we're looking for students who are truly intrinsically motivated by the pursuit of knowledge or simply love learning new things. Once you have a list of names you need to write a letter to these students. I personalized each letter to the students so that they would be more motivated to come as it wouldn't appear to be a form letter. This is the letter we distributed with some information redacted. I encourage you to write your own letters based on the needs of your team but I'm providing this to give you some ideas. The week before our meeting I distributed the letters to the teachers of these students, who later passed them out to the students they recommended, and over 65% of invited students cames to our meeting. Of those who showed up over half committed to join the team next season.
Dear [Name],

The Salem High School Academic Team would like to invite you to attend an informational meeting on [Date and Time]. You were brought to our attention by one of your current teachers who believes that you would be a good fit for our team. We are affiliated with the Virginia High School League, and we compete in various tournaments throughout the year on weeknights as well as some weekends. Our team plays Quizbowl: a game where two teams compete in a head to head competition to answer questions from all areas of knowledge--including history, literature, science, fine arts, current events, popular culture, sports, and more. Players use buzzers, similar to those seen in Jeopardy, to ring in and answer questions before the other team to earn points. This is an extremely fun and fast-paced game, and many of our current and former players have found great joy from playing Quizbowl for Salem High School. Any questions about joining the team should be directed towards Mr. [redacted] in person or by email at [redacted]. We are very excited for you to join our team, and we hope that you will be coming to our informational meeting.

Salem High School Academic Team
My team has decided to hold an annual interest meeting at the end of each school year to get kids interested in the following season. Our school does not start until September so when term begins we have to hit the ground running and I don't have enough time to do the kind of hardcore recruiting I am able to do in the spring. At our meeting this past week for next season we had 11 new students come, which was incredible because prior to this I only had 3 kids, including myself, who had committed to playing next year, I now have 10. My graduating co-captain from this season came and we explained to them what the game was and spent over an hour fielding questions from the kids who showed up. The individualized letters mentioned above proved to be a priceless tool that has saved my program. We also gave students the opportunity to join our Remind group as well as our Google Classroom, whose uses I'll explain below.

I personally feel that it is important to take full advantage of the vast wonder of the world known as the internet to get people involved and informed. I'll be detailing below the online services I use as well as the websites and programs that I use and recommend to my teammates for their use.

Google Classroom: Google Classroom is an online "classroom" similar to Moodle and other services of that type. This program is fully integrated within my school due to our 1:1 device program. Students in my school use this program every day which guarantees that everyone will see the information posted. Anyone can create a class and anyone is able to join a class, assuming they're provided the join code, making this extremely versatile. This is the platform that I use to post long-form explanations of resources as well as a file sharing service. I also use this to post our long term calendars. Google Classroom additionally allows you to have a google calendar for the class that automatically syncs to the calendars of members that have joined. This feature can be disabled by the end user should they want that.

Remind: Remind is a bulk text messaging service that allows class "owners" to send mass text messages out to all members that have joined the class. I use this to communicate practice times, cancellations, dress code reminders (the general rule is "don't look like a hobo"), and other information that is short and sweet.

Anki: This is an online flashcard program that uses an SRS and is able to sync across all devices that you are logged on to.

Quizbowl Packet Archive: Incredible database with almost every non-NAQT set.

QuizDB: Online question database with many many sets. Allows you to sort by category, sub-category, and difficulty.

QuizBug 2: Basically Protobowl without the toxic environment that uses QuizDB as its backend.

At this point, I believe I've explained everything that I can with regards to high school outreach and recruitment if anyone has any questions feel free to ask me. I've spent a lot of time trying to build my team in an attempt to prevent my team from folding following my graduation.

Re: My Guide to High School Outreach

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:37 am
by Stained Diviner
Thank you for putting this together. It is nice to have this much information in one place.

I would add the Quizbowl Resource Center or Quizbowl Packet Archive to the list just because it is sometimes useful to see actual packets, but that could just be me.

Re: My Guide to High School Outreach

Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:40 am
by meebles127
Those are both resources that I disseminate to my teammates but I did not include them on this list because those resources are a part of this website. I figured that if you were reading this post you would already know them. I'll be sure to add them shortly though.

Re: My Guide to High School Outreach

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:38 pm
by meebles127
I'd also like to point out the existence of Matt's Buzzers for teams that are in need of a buzzer system that is unable to afford one or needs assistance with covering the cost. Additionally, I'll point out my buzzer system thread for those teams deciding which set to purchase.