Curious to find out how much basic middle school knowledge is retained through old age, Cascade Christian High School statistics students polled local residents on 12 questions in English, social studies, math and science.

By Buffy Pollock

For the Tidings

Curious to find out how much basic middle school knowledge is retained through old age, Cascade Christian High School statistics students polled local residents on 12 questions in English, social studies, math and science.

Questions included: What type of animal is a whale classified as? How many degrees make up a triangle? What's the center of a cell called?

Among 241 survey takers school age through senior citizen, retention of subjects learned in sixth through ninth grades wasn't what the Cascade Christian students thought it would be.

They found the older the respondent, the lower the score.

The most often missed question was to name the three branches of the U.S. government. Just 55 percent of survey takers guessed correctly: executive, legislative and judicial.

The question most often answered correctly asked in which state the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Only 4 percent didn't know it happened in Hawaii.

"The main thing we found out from the survey was that the 18 and under and 19-to-29 age group seemed to do the best," said Tanya Sekreta, 18, a senior at Cascade Christian.

The 19-29 age group scored an average of 86 percent overall, and those 18 and under scored close to 84 percent.

"So people in high school or just out of school seem to be able to retain knowledge from school," Sekreta said.

The average score for all age groups was 78 percent.

Naming the three branches of government stumped young people the most, while the oldest age groups were most likely to answer the question correctly.

"If you think about the government question, it's something you'd learn in economics and that's a class that's offered to seniors mostly at our school," Sekreta said.

"Still, we didn't expect that to be the most missed question."

Debbie Knapp, statistics teacher at Cascade Christian, said the process was more enlightening for students than the results.

"They were required to do this entirely on their own, from having to organize a group and get everyone to work together" I was very impressed with how seriously they took it," she said.

Junior Lauren Emard, 17, said she was "really surprised by the fact we came to the conclusion that the older you are the less basic knowledge you still have."

"We tried to do things we thought people should generally know off the top of their head, no matter how old they were," Emard said, "so some of the results were surprising."

Knapp said she hoped the survey showed students that learning is a lifelong endeavor.

"I honestly think it reveals that you need to keep studying even if you're out of school," she said.

"The thing you hear with Alzheimer's, they say keep your brain exercising to stay healthy. This just kind of showed that you do need to keep doing that.

"The kids kind of expected that, because they were in school they would do well, but they were very surprised at some of the things people didn't still know," Knapp said.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.