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Stewart Science Olympiad

When 4th and 5th grade students think about spring fun, science typically doesn’t leap to the top of the list.  But that notion might start to change if events like Stewart Elementary School’s Science Olympiad continue to achieve success.

In what could be described as a controlled frenzy of learning and discovery, a total of 64 teams squared off in 8 different competitions on May 29th.  Students applied their knowledge and creativity in “hands-on, minds-on” challenges relating to scientific disciplines ranging from rocketry and map reading to electromagnetism and the ever-popular Egg Drop (pictured here).

According to Stewart science instructor Brian Colgan, the event serves as a year-end culminating event for the National Geographic Science curriculum adopted last year.  “The Science Olympiad builds on everything we have been trying to teach throughout the year,” says Mr. Colgan.  “There is content embedded in this, but it is generally inquiry-based, just like our science curriculum.  Everything they’re learning, they are discovering on their own.”

All of the events were based on Science Olympiad’s national curriculum, but were modified by Stewart teachers and volunteers in order to accommodate a large competition format.  Nearly 270 students participated in the four-day event, which concluded on May 30th with an awards ceremony.

The only event that students were able to prepare for in advance was the rocket building component of the Water Rocket event.  On May 23rd, team members were responsible for building their rockets in just 70 minutes, with the opportunity to modify them on tournament day.  All other events were conducted with no prior knowledge or opportunity for preparation.

Genia Koziarski, a Burrell parent who spearheaded both fundraising and program coordination for the event, says that Science Olympiad is an innovative way for students to engage in scientific processes and develop critical thinking, team-building, and problem-solving skills.  “That’s the fun thing about the Science Olympiad.  It’s all about the students’ ideas,” she says.  “They use the scientific knowledge they already have and apply it toward the challenges.”

Ms. Koziarski was able to secure $7500 in grant money to support the Science Olympiad initiative from local businesses, corporate sponsors, and the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh.  She credits the efforts of nearly 75 parent and teacher volunteers who worked to support the inaugural Science Olympiad.

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