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Father Marquette Middle School team excels

MARQUETTE – Speaking in front of a crowd involves more than just getting up the nerve to stand up and spout words, and the earlier someone can accomplish this, the better they should be at public speeches and the like.

That’s even if you’re playing Humpty Dumpty.

Members of the Father Marquette Middle Forensics Team showed off their prowess at three tournaments in November at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette, finishing well in the categories of broadcasting, storytelling, informative and duo.

Jill Koski, who teaches seventh and eighth grades at Father Marquette, coached the five team members twice weekly.

Four seventh-graders and an eighth-grader made up a mini-team for Father Marquette Middle School, located in Marquette, that competed against Negaunee, Munising and Bothwell Middle schools.

The schools were responsible for various duties, she said. Bothwell hosted the tournaments, Father Marquette was in charge of judging selections and the bookkeeping, Munising prepared the packets for the broadcasters and Negaunee handled food.

In each round, the students competed in their categories against other students, she said, placing either first through fourth. If there were more than four competitors in a category, everyone finishing fourth and below earned that placement.

In the first round, the Father Marquette kids finished first or second, while in the second round, they placed well again, with several top finishes.

“They did outstanding this year,” Koski said. “We call them ‘the little army.'”

Judging from Koski’s remarks, that high praise is warranted.

“They work really, really hard,” Koski said, adding their memorization skills are “phenomenal.”

Koski said participating with the forensics team provides many benefits, including becoming more adept at memorization.

“It’s all to do with public speaking – voice, diction,” Koski said, “as far as being in front of people, whether you’re rehearsed or thinking on your feet, and you know, for kids to get up and do that, and in some cases, this isn’t their thing.”

Building self-confidence is another good side benefit, she noted, as well as learning how to conduct themselves through proper body language and vocal usage, matching their vocabulary with their body shifts.

The team, however, also wasn’t always at full strength.

“They held their own the first two tournaments,” Koski said, “and we really didn’t tally things up until the last tournament, and we have typically done what we called a sweepstakes where we each choose x number of categories, and within those categories, particular students to track through that tournament.”

Only three students took part during one tournament when the two competing in the duo category couldn’t participate because they were taking part in the Lake Superior Youth Theatre play, “Aladdin.” However, Koski said the others competed in the remaining categories to represent Father Marquette.

Participants in the broadcasting category probably didn’t to overwhelm themselves with hairspray, but they did have to show poise and composure.

“The broadcasting mimics an actual broadcaster,” Koski said.

A participant received a file of stories, she said, and had 30 minutes to put them together.

“Typically we ask them to do five stories for their broadcast,” Koski said, “so he would go through the stack of stories. He would choose five. He would rewrite them and do a script that was comfortable for him, and then he presents just like he’s a broadcaster at a desk, with a shirt and tie.”

Koski said they would watch actual broadcasts and notice body language, facial expressions and diction.

The storyteller, she said, involves drama.

“They memorize a story,” Koski explained. “They put movement with it.”

A character could even be an animal. For example, the Father Marquette competitor, she noted, portrayed a penguin.

In the informative category, participants have envelopes from which they draw topics, she said. Each has three minutes to think through that topic and present a constructive argument for or against it.

“So, that one’s an unknown,” Koski acknowledged, “and how we practice for that, is draw from an envelope, think of the topic as a constructive paragraph, put together your main statement and then your supporting details, and then conclude with your overall opinion.”

The two participating in the duo category played Humpty Dumpty, who goes to a hospital, and a nurse.

“And he’s all in drama, the whole actor thing,” Koski said. “His life is just a mess.

The nurse, on the other hand, is kind and patient, so the two characters are kind of a yin and yang, she said.

Because the two competitors for Father Marquette couldn’t make the final tournament because they were performing in “Aladdin,” Koski said they performed their forensics duo skit in front of the principal, Michael Hedges, who just laughed – in a good way – at them.

“They were so cute,” Koski said. “And again, they were phenomenal. They would have taken their category.”

Seventh-grader Beau Belkowski was Humpty Dumpty.

“It took a lot of memorization,” Beau said. “We had a full four pages of lines.”

He said he learned about the Renaissance, that being the time period in which the story was set. Of course, there were other cerebral parts of the experience.

“Well, it taught me how to go in front of judges and not be, like, super nervous,” Beau said. “It forced me to do that, actually, and I made a lot of new good friends.”

He also could use his vocal cords and ham it up.

“I got to scream a lot,” he said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.