Banks Elementary School was in it to win it.
After coaches took a month to cull a team of 18 from the 119 students who applied, competitors began weekly practices in February “on their specific events,” said head coach Emily Sobul, a fourth-grade teacher.
“They practiced at home and we gave them stuff to do up until today,” she said.
When it came time to perform, Banks team members earned top-three finishes in all but a couple of the 19 events, and the team won first place overall in the first-ever LCPS Elementary Science Olympiad.
“It was awesome, just seeing what the kids can do,” Sobul said. “It’s such a good thing to see them highlight their brains and their knowledge.”
Because it promotes hands-on learning and fits with the district’s emphasis on science and technology, LCPS has promoted Science Olympiad participation this school year — and to great effect.
All middle school and high schools participated in the Region 10 Science Olympiad held at Lenoir Community College in mid-March, and all nine elementary schools fielded teams for the county Science Olympiad on March 31 at Southwood Elementary.
“I think it went wonderfully well,” Southwood principal Michelle Hill said. “For the very first time I think it was absolutely great.”
Southwood finished third overall and took home the Spirit Award. Second-place overall went to La Grange Elementary.
Students, usually working with a partner, competed in two or three events each. Some events required engineering skills – building a bridge of pasta and testing its strength or constructing a catapult that could propel a marshmallow toward a target or designing a capsule that could protect a tossed egg from cracking. Some required hard knowledge of geology, anatomy, math or biology.
Riley Hoover, a fifth grader, led the Southwood team that won the 3, 2,1 Blast-Off event, in which entrants launch a rocket of their own design that is powered by air pressure. Points are awarded based on the time the rocket stays aloft.
“It went really good,” Riley said after the win. “Some people put too much water in their rocket so it’s heavy. I tried to put just the right amount in mine. It’s a glider, so when it gets up in the air, it just floats down.”
The time from launch to landing was 11 seconds, he said – twice the time of most entries. “We did some research,” Riley said in explaining his success.
All of the more than 100 elementary students who competed should have ended the day with a sense of satisfaction, according to Tracy College, LCPS’s director of middle grades education and, with Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School science teacher Becky Hines, an organizer of the event.
“Our children did exceptionally well. They worked hard to prepare for the event and they were able to show what they were learning and practicing today. We are excited for our children,” Cole said.
As a principal in another school system, Cole had cheered her teams on during a other Olympiads, but this event was a first for her as well as the school district.
“This is my first time being behind the scenes,” she said. “It took a lot of time, a lot of strategic planning, a lot of patience and a lot of communication with senior staff members and principals and with teachers and with parents so we could make this event a success.”
It was all worth it, according to Sobul, the winning coach. “It was a labor of love. I would never want to not do it.”