Two teams of students representing Nichols Middle School recently won highest honors in the WordMasters Challenge-a national language arts competition entered by over 230,000 students annually, which consists of three separate meets held at intervals during the school year.

Competing in the difficult Blue Division of the Challenge, and coached by Terri Umland, the school’s seventh graders tied for second place In the nation in the year-end cumulative standings among 301 school teams participating at this level and in this division. At the same time, the school’s eighth graders, coached by Judith Artwick, placed fourth in the nation among 306 competing teams.

Two of the school’s students won highest honors for year-long individual achievement as well: Seventh graders Ester Espeland and Wallen Weber, each of whom made only two mistakes in the course of the year’s three meets, both placed among the 23 highest-ranked seventh graders in the entire country in the year-end standings

In addition, three of the school’s students also won highest honors for individual achievement in the year’s final meet, held in April: Seventh grader Asha Gangolli and eighth graders Owen McNeilly and Zach Sandler all earned perfect scores in this meet, while nationwide only 57 seventh graders and only 45 eighth graders did so.

Others at the school who achieved outstanding results in the year’s final meet included seventh graders Hunter Bailey, Bethany Cooper, Henry Doyle, Ester Espeland, Matt Hodak, David Hutchison, Caroline McFadden, Camille Murray, Jack Novelli, Sean Pitt, Sarah Posner, Erin Reifler, Ellen Schneider, Raisa Tolchinsky, Warren Webber; and eighth graders Ellot Chanen, Christa Culbert, Casey Culbert, Mary Gilmore, Jack Hanson, Alex Nierlich, Samantha Pfander, Margaret Port, Jane Siebold, Rommel Taylor, and Adam Yamada.

The WordMasters Challenge is an exercise in critical thinking that first encourages students to become familiar with a set of interesting new words (considerably harder than grade level), and then challenges them to use those words to complete analogies expressing various kinds of relationships.

Working to solve the challenge analogies helps students learn to think both analytically und metaphorically. Though most vocabulary-boosting and analogy-solving activities have been created for high school students, the WordMasters materials have been specifically designed for younger students, in grades three through eight. They are particularly well suited for able and interested children, who rise to the challenge of learning new words and enjoy the logical puzzles posed by analogies.

The WordMasters Challenge has been administered for the past 21 years by a company based in Allendale, N.J., which is dedicated to inspiring high achievement in American schools.

Now that all three of the year’s meets have been completed, medals and certificates will be awarded to those students who achieved and/or improved the most in the course of the year.

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