It was almost too quiet, especially for a cafeteria at an elementary school.
The parents, other relatives and friends of 12 teams of children competing in Deep Run Elementary School's Black Saga competition were waiting anxiously to hear which would serve as the representative at the state competition, to be held March 15 at Towson University.
After minutes that seemed to be unending, teachers Andrea Frank and Nancy McLaughlin Wednesday night announced that one team of fifth-graders -- Dianne Choi, Susan Kim and Jade Holmen -- won by just one point.
The crowd burst into applause as if it were cheering student athletes, and McLaughlin said she couldn’t have been prouder of both the students for showing their knowledge of black history and of the parents for supporting them.
“I think it’s just amazing that the parents, families - grandparents are here - want our children to learn about the world and equality in the world,” said McLaughlin, a second-grade teacher who started the program five years ago.
The Black Saga program tests students knowledge of black history through the use of Charles M. Christian’s book, “Black Saga: the African American Experience, A Chronology.” When an assistant principal shared information about the program with McLaughlin and asked if she wanted to start it, she readily agreed, she said.
Fourth- and fifth-graders volunteered to give up their lunch period so they can study material from the book about black history.
“It’s important to them. They prepare for it and practice,” McLaughlin said. “Just as sports are important, they prepare, too, and do their best.”
Questions were displayed on an overhead projector and read aloud for the crowd. They ranged from fairly common knowledge students learn in history classes - such as the name of the black man who was the first to die in the Boston Massacre - to harder questions such as the name of the settlement where a ship had traded 20 Africans for food.
Most of the 11 teams of three students knew the answer to the first question - Crispus Attucks, but none knew about Jamestown, although some were aware the trade had happened in Virginia.
The winning team of Jade, Susan and Dianne said they were surprised and proud they won.
“We had to study a lot of photos and questions,” said Jade, 10.
“My parents quizzed me,” added Susan, 10.
They weren’t sure they had won because they had trouble seeing the white board on the other side of the room. But Dianne, 11, said she felt confident after counting their points.
“It’s a great opportunity to show what we’ve learned,” Susan said of going to the state competition.