‘Alaska’s Academic Decathlon and Pentathlon’ by SERRC

As schools look to re-engage their students following a year of online learning, the Alaska Academic Decathlon for high school students and Pentathlon for students in middle school offers small group learning opportunities that extend beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

One student who participated in the 2020-2021 program shared the skills she gained, “I learned how to write essays, read literature, and how to be part of a team.”

The United States Academic Decathlon is a scholastic competition designed to stimulate intellectual growth, develop critical thinkers, and create lifelong learners. Here, in Alaska, the Academic Decathlon program provides opportunities for students to excel as individuals and as an integral part of a team.  Each student is challenged to be their personal best along with gaining productive cooperation and collaboration skills.

The Pentathlon program is comprised of five scholastic events, while the Decathlon ten-event competition includes: Art, Economics, Literature, Mathematics, Music, Science, Social Science, Essay, Speech, and Interview – all of which are based on a yearly theme. This year’s theme is: Water – A Valuable Resource.

One of the many unique qualities of these programs is that each team must be comprised of students of varying skills and abilities. Students compete against other students around the state at the same level and are an integral part of a team that competes with other teams.  Teams consist of three Honor students (3.80 – 4.00 GPA), three Scholastic students (3.2 – 3.799 GPA), and three Varsity students (0.00 – 3.199 GPA). In addition, many teams have up to three alternates that can also compete for medals, trophies, and scholarships. “Our team became a family,” a student shared, demonstrating how the decathlon and pentathlon bring together students of different backgrounds.

Both programs are open to every school in the state – no matter the size. Small schools are encouraged to form teams, sometimes partnering with other small schools. The program aims to engage as many schools as possible every year, reward academic achievement, and provide scholarships and recognition for academic excellence to students throughout the state.

The Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC), the program’s organizer in Alaska, has partnered with the University of Alaska Anchorage to offer a 500-level professional development course for those interested in coaching a decathlon or pentathlon team and college credit is available to interested high school students.

If you are looking for an extracurricular activity at your school that “is a fun, exciting way to meet new people, learn new things and just have a great time,” consider the Academic Decathlon or Pentathlon.

For more information about the program, contact Joan Pardes at 907-586-6806 or joanp@serrc.org.