Wahluke Junior High students participate in National Amazing Shake competition

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Mattawa — Ten students from Wahluke Junior High attended The Amazing Shake National Competition in Atlanta, GA, this past weekend, Feb. 22-24. All of the Wahluke students who attended placed in the top 200, with one placing in the top 40.

This is the second year that Wahluke Junior High students have participated in the competition held at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. The competition is designed to help students learn how to interact with people through having conversations in all types of situations, according to Wahluke Junior High seventh-grade ELA teacher Autumn Harlow.

Harlow heard about The Amazing Shake from the Ron Clark Academy. A few years ago, Harlow and a couple other teachers visited the Ron Clark Academy, a private school that allows teachers from around the country to come and observe best teaching practices. The teachers decided that they wanted to bring the ideas they saw back with them. As a result, Wahluke Junior High has been restructured to be similar to the Ron Clark Academy. They also have started a competition called “The Amazing Shake” at the school.

“Last year, we heard that Ron Clark was putting on a national competition,” said Harlow. “The school district let us send four students. They let us send 10 kids this year.”

The Wahluke School District not only allowed the students the travel to Atlanta, but paid for the trip as well.

“We didn’t have to fund-raise,” Harlow said. “We’re pretty lucky in that respect.”

There are several stages to The Amazing Shake. One of the early stages involves multiple stations where students are asked a question like “why should I hire you,” or given a scenario, such as being a weatherman, and given 50 seconds to respond. Other events ask students to name political figures shown in pictures.

“If they didn’t know, they had to use their charm to talk their way out of it,” said Harlow. “It teaches 21st-century life skills and interpersonal skills.”

During other rounds of the competition, students are put in a room with businessmen. Students visit with the businessmen in the goal of getting the most points. They have to decide for themselves how they will get those points – either through short visits with lots of people or in-depth conversations with fewer people.

Wahluke Junior High students made great improvements over their rankings from last year.

“Last year, we sent four kids,” said Harlow. “Our highest-ranking kid was 190th out of 250 kids. The lowest was 224th. This year, we sent 10 kids. Our highest was in the top 40. The next highest was in the top 80. Our lowest got 164th.”

Two of the students placed in the top 10 in one scenario during a preliminary practice round.

“It’s not about winning, but about the experience,” Harlow said. “We definitely want them to get better. Their growth was encouraging.”

Harlow said that they are seeing growth not just in the students that went to Atlanta, but in lots of students in their school. Parents and teachers have noticed a difference in students who have participated in The Amazing Shake on a state level. Harlow said the robotics instructor at Wahluke Junior High credits The Amazing Shake for students placing first in a judges interview during a recent robotics competition. She also said that parents have noticed changes in their children, such as looking them in the eye, being more respectful and becoming good at having conversations.

“The kids came back pretty excited to make changes in our school,” said Harlow.

Harlow said that none of this would be possible without the other school staff involved, namely LeeAnn Neary and principal Andy Harlow.

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@columbiabasinherald.com.

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