MAHOMET — If a school program’s success can be measured in both student enthusiasm and awards at competition, Science Olympiad at Lincoln Trail Elementary School was a big hit again this year.
The effort begins in November and culminated Saturday, Feb. 8, with a contest held in the Chicago suburbs against numerous other schools.
“We had a very fun and successful tournament,” said parent helper Kayla Smith. “Lincoln Trail took home 16 medals and medals in 10 of the 12 events! The families all had a great time watching and they all said (families and students) they learned a lot!”
Science Olympiad at Lincoln Trail includes a dozen events for children in fourth and fifth grades. This year, 36 youngsters participated, Smith noted.
“Science Olympiad is a science-based after-school program … and basically all leads up to a competition,” Smith explained.
The events and ways that students learn are varied.
“They range from building a tower with noodles to making a circuit board, and then all about circuits, to learning about weather … we have 12 different events and 12 different mentors.”
Science Olympiad categories include Wild Weather; Circuit Wizardry; Tower of Terror, in which students build towers out of straws; Fossil Frenzy; Build a Barge; Backyard Biologists; and Crime Busters.
Mentors range from parents to community volunteers, including some from Parkland College, the University of Illinois and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.
“We started in early November,” Smith said. “The first four weeks, we do introductory sessions, where each kid gets to learn a little bit about each program. We let them rank their favorites and then Liza (Raquel) and I place the kids each in two events. We alternate weeks (preparing) for the events.”
Science Olympiad started four years ago at Lincoln Trail.
“The kids do a good job with the material; I’m impressed,” said facilitator Meg Loven, who leads “A is for Anatomy” this year.
The students designed and voted on the final look of their team T-shirts for the competition last Saturday. It’s clear that they get “into” learning about science via their events.
Fourth-grader Owen Gerber said he learned “lots of stuff,” as part of the weather group.
“We predicted snow from Tuesday and it came immediately, and yes, we were right!” he said Thursday, Feb. 6, during Science Olympiad practice.
Gerber also has done Circuit Wizardry and Crime Busters; the latters is about forensics, and it’s his favorite so far.
His advice to other students?
“Try to get in,” Gerber said. He also noted that learning now about various science topics could assist him in years go come and lead to “maybe a future job.”
Over in the Fossil Frenzy class this year, fourth-grader Drew Lambert was just as enthusiastic, noting that they marked a milestone Feb. 6.
“It was so much fun, and we just got our binders today,” Lambert said.
He’s ready to sign up for next year already.
“Yes! As much as I can be!” he said when asked if he’ll join Science Olympiad in the next school year.
“I like how we could just do science,” Lambert explained, noting that science is his favorite subject. And why? “Because you’re asking the questions, not getting asked the questions.”
Fourth-grader Elaina Webb participated in Wild Weather and Crime Busters this year. She has trouble deciding which is her favorite.
“Definitely Crime Busters but weather is pretty close,” Webb answered eventually.
And why did she get into Science Olympiad?
“Because my mom told me and I didn’t think I wanted to do it but now I’m glad that I did … because it’s really fun ‘cause you get to work with friends and also you just get to learn stuff,” Webb said.
Elliott Smith, a fifth-grader and the son of Kayla Smith, said he enjoys Backyard Biologists.
“I do Build a Barge and Backyard Biologists,” Elliott Smith said. He likes “just learning about birds and stuff. It’s fun.”
What fascinating fact is one that he learned?
“One of these ducks, the male doesn’t quack,” Smith said, although he didn’t recall an explanation as to why.
He did remember his reason for doing Science Olympiad for the second year.
“My mom made me,” Elliott Smith said honestly. But would he have done it anyway? “Yeah, basically,” he added.
Last year, Elliott Smith did “A is for Anatomy” and Build a Bridge, but Backyard Biologists remains his favorite.
“It’s just fun,” he said.