It’s academic event season, and here are some important dates to know

Super Quiz Relay portion of the Orange County Academic Decathlon
Students from Esperanza High School participate in the Super Quiz Relay event on the final day of last year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon. The 2024 decathlon kicks off Jan. 27.

As the calendar flips to a brand new year, we’re ready to dive back into the heart of the academic event season.

Over the next six months, an array of engaging opportunities awaits students eager to challenge their understanding of — and hone their abilities in — history, science, math, reading, writing and robotics, among other subjects. 

But these events aren’t just about academic growth. They’re about creating enduring memories and building new friendships.

Below is our updated guide to the standards-based competitions and events that OCDE will play a role in from now until June.

January 27

Orange County Academic Decathlon, day one. Founded by former Orange County Superintendent Dr. Robert Peterson in 1968, the Academic Decathlon is a 10-event scholastic contest staged at the county, state and national levels. Participants will kick off the communications portion of the event by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches and participating in personal interviews.

February 3

Orange County Academic Decathlon, day two. Decathletes will take 30-minute tests in the subject areas of art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science. This second day of this competition also features the Super Quiz Relay, a high-energy contest that feels like a sporting event.

February 5

Orange County Science & Engineering Fair. The 69th annual event in March welcomes middle and high school students to showcase their projects spanning 18 diverse categories, from applied mechanics to biochemistry. Esteemed judges from the science and research community will evaluate each entry. Feb. 5 is the deadline for project registration, and Feb. 26 is the deadline to submit. A select few will progress to the California Science & Engineering Fair, Regeneron ISEF and Thermos Fisher Junior Innovators Challenge.

February 17

Orange County Regional Science Olympiad Tournament. Science Olympiads are like academic track meets, with a series of STEM-related team events connected to disciplines including biology, Earth science, chemistry, physics, astronomy and engineering. This year’s event will be held at UC Irvine.

February 26

Orange County Spelling Bee, written round. This first round, set to take place at Orange Coast College, includes the winners of school and district spelling bees throughout Orange County. Students will write spelling words and answer vocabulary questions, which are also part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The top spellers from the written round advance to the final round the following Saturday at OCDE.

March 2

Orange County Spelling Bee, final round. One by one, students take turns stepping up to the podium to spell their given words over the course of several rounds. A winner is announced when all but one have been eliminated. The top speller will go on to represent Orange County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

March 21 through 24

California Academic Decathlon. The winning teams from the Orange County Academic Decathlon will be joined by elite squads from other counties at this state-level competition. The 2024 competition will be held in Santa Clara.

March 9

National History Day-Orange County. This countywide competition will take place at Sierra Vista Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District. National History Day draws about 600,000 U.S. participants each year with contests at the district, county, state and national levels. Working individually or in teams, students in grades four through 12 conduct extensive research and develop elaborate projects, including original websites, documentaries, podcasts, performances and exhibits. The 2023-24 theme is “Turning Points in History.”

April 5 through 8

Gallaudet University’s Battle of the Books. Sponsored by Gallaudet University, this contest was created in 2012 to boost literacy, encourage critical thinking and promote sportsmanship for middle schoolers who are deaf and hard of hearing. The finals are typically in the spring, following local preliminary rounds in November and playoffs in December.

April 25 and 26

United States Academic Decathlon. For Academic Decathlon competitors who advance beyond the state level, the national championships will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Note that four events will take place online before the national competition dates. The interview and essay, as well as the art and literature portions, will take place online on April 11.

April 19 through 21

National History Day-California. This competition, which will be held at California State University, Sacramento, is open to county NHD champions in grades four through 12.

April 20 and 27

Orange County Academic Pentathlon, grades seven and eight. The Academic Pentathlon is a five-event competition for grades six, seven and eight. Under the guidance of their coaches, middle school teams tackle the fine arts, literature, math, science and social science and compete in their own Super Quiz Relay.

April 22 and May 4

Orange County Academic Pentathlon, grade six. This time it will be teams of sixth-graders competing in the Academic Pentathlon, which will include a Super Quiz Relay event on May 4.

April 25

OC Civic Learning Celebration. Students will share their civic engagement projects and OCDE will honor recipients of the Civic Learning Pathway certificate, as well as schools that have earned Civic Learning Awards, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the OC Holocaust Education Center in Newport Beach. This year’s theme is “Local Government.” K-12 educators, students and their families are invited to register at no cost. 

June 9 through 13

The National History Day National Contest. Just as county level winners move on to state competitions, the state-level NHD winners advance to the national finals, which is typically held in June at the University of Maryland, College Park. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the national program.