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The spirit of American competitiveness: science Olympiad

February 13, 2014
By Jeremie Fish , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

We certainly are a funny bunch here in America. We enjoy the occasional double entendre.

For instance one of the mantra's we have is practice makes perfect. This is often applied to sports. People have no expectation that their children will immediately be good at a sport. Rrather, they encourage them to practice.

However, when it comes to school, we do not share the same views. Perhaps when we are teaching a child to read, we will encourage them to practice, but if that same child has a difficult time in math/science we just shrug and say oh well, you are just not good in math/science, nothing to worry about. Encouraging children to practice these things is not part of the American psyche.

Article Photos

Lake Placid’s Science Olympiad Team
(Photo provided)

However, in the spirit of American competitiveness we have begun to move to a more productive view of science and math education, which brings me to Science Olympiad.

Science Olympiad began as a national competition in 1985 and was hosted at Michigan State University. The competition had been around before that time, but not on the national level. Since that time it has grown into an important affair, with different universities hosting the national event and in some cases even giving out scholarships to the winners of the national competition.

Science Olympiad challenges the knowledge and abilities of the young competitors. The C division is made up of ninth to 12th graders and the B division is made up of sixth to ninth graders. There is also an A division for Kindergarten to sixth grade. For both B and C divisions there is a maximum of 15 team members (though for the regional events more than one team from a school can participate). Also there may be no more than seven 12th graders on the division C team.

The goal of Science Olympiad is to promote science education, and they do so through friendly competition. Some of the test questions asked would be challenging for a college sophomore to answer, and that is the point. The amazing thing is that the students actually enjoy being challenged, and they discover that you don't have to be a genius to understand science. I know this because I have talked to some of the competitors.

Science Olympiad is far reaching and indeed there is even an Adirondack regional event that is hosted, oddly enough, outside of the Adirondacks at Clarkson University. Area teams do compete, including Lake Placid and Plattsburgh.

Plattsburgh has dominated the region, placing first six years in a row in the Adirondack regional. Lake Placid has only competed for the last two years but placed in third in the region for their first year and second in the region this year out of a total of 11 teams. Plattsburgh, Lake Placid and fourth place team Potsdam will be representing our region in the state competition this year (Plattsburgh had two teams in the regional event and their second team placed third in regional's but they cannot send two teams to the state competition).

Unfortunately, many schools in our region do not participate in Science Olympiad, including Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Peru and Saranac. But we should certainly congratulate those who did compete and those who will represent our region at the state event.

This is truly a great competition for science education, which is something that is desperately needed as our kids continue to remain stagnant in science knowledge. Hopefully it is a competition we can all get behind, just like basketball or football.

One last thing: I have to admit as someone who is helping to coach the Lake Placid team (Lake Placid Physics teacher Frank Brunner and his father Lee being the main coaches) I do have a bias, so go Blue Bombers!

 
 

 

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