Science Olympiad fosters interest in STEM topics

Walker McCarthy, Contributing Writer

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The Middle Division (MD) Science Olympiad team provides students with an opportunity to pursue their interests in science and explore topics outside of the classroom.

“Students join the team for a pure love of science, and members really enjoy what they are studying because it is new, different, and exciting,” faculty advisor Jodi Hill said.

Throughout the year, students work on a specific event, preparing to compete with over forty other schools on the first Saturday of March. “Events are what topics you study, and most people have two or three events,” James Zaidman (6), a member of the team, said. These topics can be anything from chemistry to astronomy, and at the competition in March there is a written test and/or a lab activity based on the themes, he said.

With events split between written assessments and building events, students are able to fulfill their commitment in different ways, Avi Kumar (8), another member, said.

“Most of the preparation for quizzes and tests can be done at any time, while building events can be very time consuming in school because they require materials and partner work,” Kumar said.   

The club has changed drastically through the years, becoming very committed and serious, Hill said. “Each one of the thirty students comes once a week to study, build, or practice, and they are very self-motivated this year,” she said.

Team members are partnered with fellow classmates to prepare for their events, ranging from herpetology to potions and poisons, Zaidman said. “Having partnerships in Science Olympiad helps to create a community because we have to work together to do well in an event,” he said.

“With partnerships, we all have something in common with another person,” Josephine Mignone (7) said.

The club has helped students in their school science classes and encouraged them to develop better study habits, while continuing to provide a great community and a fun space to learn more about topics students are interested in, Kumar said.

“Science Olympiad has a basis of long-term research which has taught me to manage my workload better and how to balance my time,” Henry Levinson (8) said.

The MD science curriculum also overlaps with topics studied by team members, benefitting students both in competition and in the classroom. For example, Mich Obia (6) is studying meteorology as one of his events for the competition in March and what he has learned as a team member has helped him in school, he said.

Despite the fact that the MD team participates in similar competitions to those of the Upper Division, high school students have little involvement with middle schoolers. In fact, with the construction of Lutnick Hall and the separation of faculty offices, the teams, which have both practiced in Pforzheimer in the past, “have become less connected this year,” Hill said. However, the MD team is brought together by partnerships between students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, she said.

The team is limited to thirty students, but Science Olympiad continues to be exceedingly popular in the MD with twelve people on a waiting list who can join if a current member cannot compete, Hill said. “I’m confident in the team’s future,” she said.