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In Our Own Words: Pingry QuizBowl Hosts the MLK Day of Service Civil Rights Trivia Game

By Aneesh Karuppur '21, Shaan Lehal '23, Mirika Jambudi '23, and Ayush Basu '23

On Monday, January 18, as Pingry students participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, a new activity attracted dozens of excited players: the Pingry QuizBowl Civil Rights Trivia virtual booth. Building off the success of last year's in-person booth, the QuizBowl Team tackled the challenge of holding a tournament online by engineering a different format and logistics for the game operations.

In 2020, the Day of Service Civil Rights Trivia Game consisted of only a table with one moderator (Team Captain Aneesh Karuppur '21) and a set of six buzzers that players walking by could use to answer questions. This year, to accommodate the fully online Day of Service, the entire team met frequently to plan and ensure that the Zoom experience would be just as fun.

When the Pingry School Parents' Association (PSPA) reached out to ask if QuizBowl would be interested in hosting a tournament, given the success of the previous year, planning began immediately. Comprising between 15-25 members, the team switched to using a Jeopardy! style of gameplay as it was easier to organize teams and solicit answers with that format. The team met several times for hours on end to write out the questions, including one set of questions for Middle and Upper School students and another set for Lower School students. QuizBowl Team members took special care to consider all aspects of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, and the questions featured a diverse group of figures, events, and themes. Furthermore, each question was specifically designed with the intent of providing a well-known hook for students to recognize while simultaneously introducing new movements and ideas for students to learn as they played. Topics included the Ebenezer Baptist Church (where Dr. King preached), Ruby Bridges, Supreme Court cases relating to discrimination, famous marches, and relevant U.S. Presidents. 

While the question-writing was going on, the QuizBowl Team leadership (consisting of Aneesh and Vice Captains Shaan Lehal '23, Mirika Jambudi '23, and Ayush Basu '23) worked with the PSPA to determine the logistics for the tournament. It was decided that the game would have three rounds—two recommended for Middle and Upper Schoolers, and one recommended for Lower School students. Each round would have a few experienced QuizBowl Team members to serve as moderators and to encourage understanding of the historical context. The team also coordinated sign-up sheets, Zoom room management, and the Vice Captains created an informative training video for moderators to ensure that the event ran smoothly. QuizBowl Team members Max Watzky '23, Hansen Zhang '24, Charles Jiang '23, Evan Wen '23, Ava Kotsen '23, Adam Bauhs '23, and Divya Subramanian '24 all helped write questions and served as moderators on the tournament day. 

Open from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on January 18, the three rounds of the Civil Rights Trivia Game attracted nearly 50 students of different ages. For the two Middle and Upper School rounds, three sub-rounds each were required to handle the volume of students. The questions proved intriguing yet challenging, and the Lower School student teams racked up scores of nearly 6,000 points each with their mastery of history. There was ample discussion and debate as teams brainstormed to come up with the correct answer, and celebrations when their answer turned out to be correct.

Overall, the Civil Rights Trivia Game proved to be an engaging way to incorporate important historical and political aspects of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s life into the Day of Service. The QuizBowl Team aims to make this new tournament a tradition and is grateful for the opportunity to be involved so deeply in the broader Pingry community. 

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,