Friday, June 18, 2010
Gold Medal Win at the State Science Olympiad
Here's a photo of my older son, a 7th grade homeschooler, with his gold medal for an event he and his teammates won at the Connecticut state 2010 Science Olympiad.
This year my son and two local homeschool boys worked together on two events. One was a structural engineering bridge model building event and the other was to create a rubber-band airplane model and to keep it in the air the longest. They came in first in the state for the flying event and fourth in the state for the bridge building model.
The team is comprised of homeschoolers from our county. 2009 was our first year and it was a big learning curve. We were the very first homeschool team in Connecticut to participate in Science Olympiad. We had a very small team and only did a small number of the more than twenty events held. In 2010 our team expanded to ten members (still shy of the maximum number of fifteen per team) and the team members competed in 18 of 23 events.
Without bogging you down with details the bottom line is the team's overall placement in the state will never be near the top if the team does not compete in every event. Due to the timing of the events in this one day competition, each student must compete in multiple events. Scheduling is tricky as it seems there are sometimes four competitions going on at the same exact time. Team members cannot be in two places at once!
In the first year my son and one other student were surprised to take first place in the bridge competition. In this second year more time was spent on the new-to-them plane flying event and only half the time was spent on the bridge. They loved learning through this hands-on experience. Not only did they learn facts but they also learned that you get out of something what you put into it. They knew as the competition approached they'd not done enough building and breaking of test model bridges in order to try to make the best bridge they could. Their move from 1st to 4th place in that event proved that point to them.
My son's participation in this event is not all about the winning. Honestly this son of mine has never been interested in competition, until his experience last year. He got to see what it felt like to do well and especially when up against school kids. A number of teams are comprised only of students in the gifted and talented programs. A couple of the schools are magnet schools specializing in science and technology. I feel our team of homeschoolers are competing against either the best of the best schools or against public schools with fantastic, experienced, enthusiastic coach-teachers.
Last year's experience was my son's first feeling of being a part of something bigger, part of a group working toward one goal. He was just one kid on a team and he was one team in a sea of kids from across the state. This changed him somehow, I'm not sure why or how but it did. It motivated him and made him feel he was competent, perhaps. In 2010 he was motivated to try harder and do more. He spent more time and energy on preparing for the competition this year.
Still there is much room for expansion and improvement. If he only tries, and if he helps motivate his teammates, they will do better. Already he and some teammates have made a committment to expand the team to its full capacity. The positive buzz from this spring's competition created a demand and already the 2011 team is full!
I offered to take a leadership role with the team for 2011, in order to contribute more and step up efforts to make this a true team experience.
We homeschoolers are a bit of a disadvantage as we are spread geographically across a county and we struggle to find times to be able to meet face to face to prepare for the events. My son and I would both like the team members to know each other well and for everyone to have a bit of an idea what each event is like. Since we have no long-time experienced coaches we parents are learning this as we go.
As I prepare to hit the 'publish' button for this post I'm wondering if this will be considered bragging by some parents. What I'm doing is sharing an experience.
I'm also thinking what a shame it is that in this wealthy place, Fairfield County, Connecticut, with so many public schools (and private schools) boasting of their academic excellence, that only one from a not-boastful and a lower end of the wealth spectrum and not top of the list per standardized test scores (Shelton) participates in the Science Olympiad middle school division. Where is Darien? New Canaan? Ridgefield? Wilton? Greenwich? Westport? Weston? Easton? Redding? Why is my town not participating?!? I'm aghast to be honest.
I strongly encourage other homeschoolers to look into partcipating with Science Olympiad in your region, it's a national competition. There is a lot to be learned not only about science but about teamwork, sportsmanship, social skills and perhaps also some new friends will be made along the way.