The questions at Mira Costa High School's Scholar Quiz went something like this:
Your mailing address contains a ZIP code. What does ZIP stand for? (Zone Improvement Plan) If two numbers are additive inverses, what is their sum? (Zero) In what town was Shakespeare's works performed? (Stratford-on-Avon).
The two teams of high school students sputtered, stuttered and stood a race against time to come up with the answers to these tough questions in the ninth annual Scholar Quiz, which ends today at the Manhattan Beach high school. The winning team of four students gets $500; second-place winners receive $400.
The Scholar Quiz is just one of the innovative extracurricular activities that earned Mira Costa High the designation this week as a National Blue Ribbon School, an award given by the federal Department of Education to 33 middle schools and high schools in California.
This is the first year the school of 1,800 students has received such an award. Principal John Giovati said a representative from the Education Department visited the school to look at its teaching environment, curriculum and instructors, student environment, test scores, athletic programs and at the number of students who go on to college.
One of those extracurricular activities praised was the Scholar Quiz, held each May. It draws scores of students who sign up for 64 teams with four members each.
"When we opened the doors to sign up four weeks ago at 6:30 a.m., we filled up in 10 minutes," said history and government teacher Bill Fauver, who organizes the Scholar Quiz.
There are surfer teams, skateboard teams, all-female teams, teams of juniors, or teams of seniors who compete during a one-week period to answer questions that would tax the mind of any scholar.
At noon, students cart their lunches to one of several classrooms where the matches occur. On Thursday, the semifinalists battled it out in two different classrooms.
In one classroom, a team of four juniors went up against a team of nervous and intense seniors.
"I learn a lot when I come," said Megan Fuller, 17, explaining why she was giving up her lunch hour to watch the quiz. I'm really surprised when I know the answer to questions I didn't think I knew the answers to."
In the end, the seniors beat the juniors 210 to 110 to advance to today's final Scholar Quiz that will be held in the school auditorium.