Apple Blossom Festival: One Disappointment

Spelling Bee Winner Emilie and Her Proud Parents

Readers who have been following PicsofCanada’s coverage of Colborne’s Apple Blossom Tyme festival, have found ye Editor to be a fairly enthusiastic festival goer. But there was a major disappointment – the Spelling Bee – or rather the turnout for the Spelling Bee. As readers can see from the pictures below, the Spelling Bee itself and the participants were not disappointing. Who would be disappointed after winning one of 3 prizes of $150 for 1st place, $75 for 2nd place and $50 for 3rd place?  And these same prizes were available for for juniors – 1st to 4th grade, midgraders – 5th and 6th grade, and Seniors-7th and 8th grades.  And the running of the 3 Spelling Bees was faultless. Clear rules, fair officiating, and comfortable surroundings. See the pics below:

What was so disappointing was the turnout for the Spelling Bee. For the juniors there were 8 entrants. For the mid-years there were 5 entrants, and for the seniors there were only 2 entrants. Show up for the senior competition and you are guaranteed at least $75 for 15 minutes, tops, of “work”. So what is the problem?

Are Spelling Bees losing out in interest and popularity? Definitely not so – both the Canadian and US National Spelling Bees are Primetime TV that get good ratings. Are the words too tough and the competition too forbidding? Well, the juniors started out with 3 letter words, the midyears with four letter words and the seniors with five letter words. In short, the competition allowed the students to get warmed up and into the swing of things with some relatively easy words. Also, the procedure was just like on TV’s National Spelling Bees – the speller was allowed to ask for a repeat of the pronunciation of the word, a definition, and even use in a sentence.  Plenty of help in getting the right word in mind. In fact, the kids were almost uniformly too quick – not repeating the word – and at least on three occasions they simply spelled correctly the wrong word because they had misunderstood and pronounced the word they thought they had heard- not the one given.

Are Spelling Bees antiquated and out of date in an era of computerized spelling checkers and word processing aids?. Take it from ye Editor, Spelling Bees from grade school classes 1 thru 8 were one of the biggest and best motivators for learning English well. Every week we had a Spelling Bee until grade 5 when History and then Geography quizzes  were incorporated into the Friday end of week, everybody-in-the-class-participates weekly Bee or quiz. There was no prize other than to know that you had won the weekly quiz. And a Spelling Bee is more than just getting the spelling right. One learned the meaning of words, their etymology or history of derivation from earlier languages like French, German, Greek, Latin and many other languages. Also words took on a power of their own with their many shades of meaning, their synonyms and antonyms. Ones understanding of others and ones own speech and writing inevitably improved.

Okay so what happened here? Maybe the contest is new or the schools were not informed. But the Spelling Bee is as old as the Festival. The current prizes have been at this level for the past five years. And the Northumberland School Board and its grade schools were sent faxes at least 5 weeks ahead of the Spelling Bee. And the winners’ schools get a library donation as well. So the Schools and School Board have every incentive to participate. Now consider that the city of Cobourg alone has 5 public, 3 Catholic plus 10 private and Montessori grade schools. And so out of scores of grades schools in Northumberland county, only 15 Spelling bee competitors can be found? My gosh, with $150 on the line, the whole of St. Ambrose School[at least 120 Spellers] would have shown up for these kind of prizes[all we got were city-wide ribbons].

So PicsofCanada welcomes any civil comments immediately below from our readers about the Apple Blossom Festival’s  Spelling Bee. Commentary from Northumberland County grade school students, teachers, and administrators [particularly from the private or home-schooling sources] would be welcome. In tough times, one hears of the need for government and private business co-operation. Here seems to be a perfect opportunity, and something is going awfully awry. Why?

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