Academic contests motivate kids
      What can make academics fun for students? Contests can.
      It sure isn't fun when the teacher announces "Test on Friday." But what happens if the teacher
 announces that the class could win a trip to Space Camp? Now we're talking enthusiasm.
      Unfortunately, most students don't know what they're missing. A kid searching for academic
 contests must cross an information gap that could swallow the Library of Congress.
      One year a contest that offers a $58,000 college scholarship got exactly one entry. Yes, that
 student did win the prize.
      Why aren't contests better known? Most are announced only
 by a poster at school. That rules out the growing number of
 homeschoolers right off the bat. And maybe the principal or
 counselor never posted the announcement. Or the first
 interested kid stuffed the poster in his back pack. Or the poster
 went unnoticed amidst the bulletin board clutter.
      So Scott Pendleton, an award-winning journalist, wrote
  The Ultimate Guide to Student Contests, Grades 7-12 (Walker
 and Company, 374 pages). His research found so many

 contests for younger kids that he also wrote The Ultimate Guide to Student Contests, Grades K-6
 (Walker and Company, 184 pages).
      The books list hundreds of contests on art, essays, fiction, poetry, foreign languages,
 mathematics, science, computers, film-making, photography, geography, history, and more.
      They also gives details about academic talent searches, honor societies, academics-related
 membership organizations, standardized tests, and recognition awards.
      "Almost every contest organizer complains of low participation," Mr. Pendleton says. "Several just
 gave up and quit offering some really exciting contests." One was a science contest that would have
 let the winners meet with the Nobel Laureate of their choice.
      Or what about the most famous contest in the country - the National Spelling Bee? Don't expect a
 winner from Seattle or Austin. Those are the only U.S. cities that don't participate. "The problem isn't
 lack of interest, but lack of awareness," Mr. Pendleton says.

     For an author interview, E-mail     
Scott Pendleton.
      The Ultimate Guide to Student Contests gives
 students the full menu from which to choose. The
 books even includes samples of winning art and
 writing. "If you see that and think 'Hey, I could do that,'
 then you've gotten the message," the author tells
 students. "Now show us!"