One interesting bee. Such was the case in the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge's (FODR) first Scientific Spelling Stomp. I had the opportunity to curate the word list and pronounce for this bee, which took place on October 1 to raise money for FODR. Although this bee was in many senses normal, there were a few twists.
Firstly, instead of individual spellers, teams took part in the bee. They discussed and agreed on a spelling, and then one of them spelled the word for the judges. If they were eliminated before the 5th round, each time had the opportunity to buy back into the bee for $10.
Arguably the most significant twist, however, was that all of the words in the bee were related to either geology or paleontology. With words ranging from minerals to dinosaur genus names, the teams (many of whom boasted experienced geologists and paleontologists) "stomped" their way through the bee, with Dr. Scott Isaacs, Cameron Keith, and Suzanne McClung as judges (anyone familiar with the world of competitive spelling will likely recognize at least one of the first two names). Within a few hours, a winning team had been named--the three-person "Rock"ettes, who won a $500 prize by correctly spelling "facies." This was immediately followed by a dramatic spell-off for the second place $100 prize, clinched by the Colorado Geological Survey's team with the word "paramo."
A week later, I find myself able to reflect on the bee a little more than I was able to in the moment. It definitely provided me with an opportunity for growth with respect to running bees, as I had to write out the rules, make the word list, and pronounce for the whole bee. I also became more accustomed to dealing with appeals--not being a judge, I had no actual say in the final decision, but I had to field the initial request for an appeal. The bee also fulfilled another part of its purpose which was to encourage scientific literacy. The precision of science works because we have exact terms to describe things, and knowing how to spell those terms is very important when communicating about scientific concepts.
Perhaps the best part of the bee for me personally was how people relatively unaccustomed to the world of spelling were introduced to it in a somewhat unconventional way. Adults and kids competed together, and teams rather than individuals were the players, but it still provided a glimpse into the eccentric microcosm that is the world of competitive spelling. For anyone interested in such an event, I highly recommend that you attend next year's event!