By Kelsey Wood
With hundreds of students from across Maine participating in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative’s annual RiceBowl Challenge, the success of the program is no surprise. MLTI partnered with freerice.com to launch the challenge and to encourage students to help end world hunger. Students answer general trivia questions that aim to improve intellectual strength. The website offers dozens of difficulty levels and eight subjects to choose from: humanities, English, math, chemistry, language learning, geography, sciences and standardized test prep. For each correct answer, website advertisers donate 10 grains of rice.
The RiceBowl runs from January 21 to February 6—beginning two weeks before the National Football League Superbowl and ending on Digital Learning Day, a national campaign that celebrates teachers, their instructional practices, and effective use of technology in classrooms.
A working group on online learning options, created by the Legislature and through an initiative of Gov. Paul R. LePage, is expected to issue a report soon on ways the state can improve access for all Maine students to quality online and digital learning opportunities.
The Maine Department of Education’s MLTI program provides middle and high schools with 21st-century tools for professional growth in order to reinforce the accomplishments of the Maine state standards. Former Governor Angus King developed MLTI in order to prepare Maine students for the changing world. Originally MLTI provided only sixth and seventh grade students with MacBooks to improve their learning both in and out of school, but in 2009 MLTI began offering laptops to high school students as well.
The RiceBowl Challenge Pre-Season ended January 21. Altogether, 727,520 grains of rice were donated as a result of pre-season play—enough rice to feed an individual for 38 days.
Students entering the RiceBowl Challenge have two teams to choose from: the AFC team and the NFC team. In the first year of the challenge, the two teams raised over 20 million grains of rice for the World Food Programme. The MLTI program encourages teachers and students to take part in the challenge and help raise more rice.
The NFC team involves NFL player Drew Brees, who joined the RiceBowl in 2011 to mark the first challenge. The addition of Drew Brees attracted more sports fans and adults to the program, bringing thousands of students and adults to play on freerice.com. Earning rice on the website is not limited to school-aged students—adults of any age are encouraged to join the effort.
The RiceBowl Challenge website has the ability to rank schools by the amount of rice its students have raised. Competitors can view which schools are participating in the challenge and compare rankings each day. Visitors can also see the amount of rice that has been raised in the past and how much has been donated on any given day.
The Challenge is a fun, free and easy way to help those who are suffering from hunger. Correctly answering one question donates 10 grains of rice. If 100,000 people answer one question correctly, one million grains of rice will be donated to the World Food Programme. Imagine the amount of food Maine could donate if everyone rightly answers just one question—now open up your MLTI laptops and answer as many as you can.
It’s not too late to join the RiceBowl Challenge. Teachers—register your school today at ricebowl.maine121.org.
Kelsey Wood is a freshman at University of Maine, Presque Isle.