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Not everybody knows what type of material is defined by a Roth Test or what action resulted in the resignation of former White House press secretary Jerald terHorst. But there’s a good chance a student competing Wednesday at Rainier Junior/Senior High School knew.

Five students, one from as far away as Spokane, gathered in Rainier to compete in the first-ever regional U.S. History Bee held at the school. Rainier Junior/Senior High School  — which has only 568 students of its own — may seem an unlikely venue for regional competitions, but the school has been home to both the National History Bee and the National History Bowl’s Oregon competition for the last three years. It will host those competitions again Jan. 25.

“Of course, we’re a little nervous, but all of us are looking forward to this,” John Connor, a contestant from Spokane said as he took a break from questions during the competition.

National history competitions first took notice of Rainier in about 2010 after the National History Club named the school’s chapter to its list of the country’s top 10 history clubs for two consecutive years.

“Rainier’s doing some great things and our name got out there,” said Andrew Demko, Rainier Junior Senior High School history teacher and history bee organizer. “I feel like it’s an honor for them to do that, and it helps (students) get excited that they’re getting the positive feedback from these organizations.”

Individual students in Wednesday’s two-hour U.S. History Bee and the day-long National History Bee compete through multiple rounds of 30 questions.

Meanwhile, The day-long National History Bowl will feature teams of up to four players competing against each other. Students in both competitions will earn points for correctly answering questions, and the competition will include both preliminary and final rounds.

Demko, who frequently dresses in period costume to teach class, doesn’t know exactly how many students will participate in the history bee and history bowl Jan. 25. About six teams of up to six students to attended the bowl last year. Those competitions include questions about all facets of history.

The winner of each competition in Rainier will qualify for national competitions, held in Washington, D.C., and nearby Arlington, Va.

“Which is fun,” said Demko, whose team from Rainier qualified to compete nationally three years ago. “It’s fun to compete with schools all over the country.”

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Most Rainier students practice at least once a week at lunchtime for the history competitions. During that time, junior high students often test their skills against high school students and vice versa.

“My kids seem to be having a good time,” Demko said. “They’re smiling and having a good time.”

Demko said the history competitions apply knowledge students gain at school in a “fun, positive” setting outside the classroom.

“It’s another way for kids to learn more about the topic in the classroom,” Demko said. “They’re having fun in their learning, and I think that’s great.”

And opportunities abound for Rainier students to participate in history outside the classroom. Every year, club members don costumes and recreate life in Rainier circa 1853 during an event called Rainier Revisited. The club focuses on local history, which Demko said helps drive student interest.

“We’re doing things beyond just the textbook and taking notes.” Demko said. “We’re trying to offer as much opportunity for kids in social studies and history as we can.”

Justin Pittman covers Longview and Kelso school districts, Lower Columbia College and Columbia County (Oregon) for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-575-2523 or


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