Principal Lee Ann Hardy describes herself as competitive, an attitude that’s been adopted – or encouraged – by her teaching staff; so when Pink Hill Elementary School finished last in the district in the 2017 Elementary Science Olympiad, the Hornets accepted the challenge.
“We worked really hard this year,” said Selina Gray, a fourth-grade science teacher and one of the Science Olympiad team coaches. “We made sure we competed in every event this year and we studied hard.”
The result: a worst-to-first comeback win for Pink Hill in the 2018 LCPS Elementary Science Olympiad held Saturday at Pink Hill.
The school’s team of third, fourth and fifth graders collected at least 10 first-place medals and 17 total medals in the 19 events, according to results to be made official Wednesday. Pink Hill also won the Spirit Award.
The team from Banks Elementary finished second and third place went to Northwest Elementary.
“Last year we really didn’t know what to expect. It was our first time. We didn’t enter as many events as we did this year,” principal Hardy said. “When we came back and got started this year we made it a priority. We had students competing in every event. That’s what we think made the difference – the coaching and entering all the events instead of just a select few.”
Across the district, Science Olympiad has become a priority the past two years. All 17 schools enter teams in Science Olympiad competitions geared to their grade spans.
“We are excited to host the Science Olympiad for LCPS students,” Dr. Amelia McLeod, the district’s middle school education director and Science Olympiad coordinator. “Students experience science through fun competition, learn the value of teamwork and explore science, technology, math and engineering in a tournament setting.
“Science Olympiad tournaments are held for elementary, middle and high schools. This is a wonderful way for students to personalize their learning and showcase their talents,” said McLeod, who organized Saturday’s event with Becky Hines, principal intern at La Grange Elementary.
At the Region X Science Olympiad held at Lenoir Community College on Feb. 10 for middle schools and high schools, students from South Lenoir High School and Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School advanced to the state finals to be held in March.
Elementary school competitions are staged by district, with no regionals or state finals. “At this level, we’re giving the students experience,” Hardy said.
And tapping into their enthusiasm for science and hands-on learning.
“Each of our third, fourth and fifth grade science teachers chose events and chose students from our classes that we thought would do well,” Gray said. “I incorporated some of the events in my regular science lesson so my whole class got to do them.”
Describe It, Build It, for example, a competition in which one student writes a description of a object made from multiple parts and the student’s partner, without seeing the object, has to assembly it based on the description.
Or Super Sleuth. “That’s one of my favorites,” Gray said. “They give you a crime scene scenario, three subjects and evidence that has been collected. The students had four powders they had to identify based on their physical and chemical properties. They had to look at shoe print comparisons and hair and fiber so they could identify who the culprit was.”
Betsy Mercer, a fifth-grade science teacher, coached students in ecology events and the 3-2-1 Blast Off! event, which essentially ranks entries according to the hang time of a launched one-liter plastic bottle filled with water and powered by air pressure.
“Beyond the specifics of having a one-liter bottle and three or four fins, the design is kind of up to you,” she said.
The event requires a basic understanding of physics and aeronautics. Others require engineering skills and test students in math, chemistry and physical and earth science.
“Science Olympiad is a good representation of all our science standards,” Gray said. “And the kids love it. We have so much fun.”