Today, the North Shore Science Olympiad season will begin with our Kick-off Meeting for students. This will start the 20 week season, 26 is we qualify for the State Finals Tournament as we have done in each of the previous 13 years since our science department chair, Lee Block, first approached me about whether I was interested in helping him start the program.
Our program has grown from the 18 students who participated on our first team to the 25 – 33% of the Middle School students who have participated recently.
I love coaching Science Olympiad for several reasons:
- Passion-based learning in science. The students are able to choose between 23 different science and engineering based events each year. They are asked to pick areas of science that they are interested in learning.
- Shift to student-centered learning and highly motivated students who are self-starters. For each event, we have a coach/guide who helps point the student in a direction. However, the amount of time needed to be prepared far exceeds the amount of time spent with a coach. To achieve the level of success that we have had, students have had to go above and beyond, with a goal for learning for learning’s sake.
- Hands-on learning using principles of Design-Thinking. The engineering events require students to brainstorm, build, and then test a device to meet a goal. Students are given some guidelines, but other than that, it is an open-ended problem. Using the principles of Design-Thinking, to brainstorm and quickly prototype a solution, students build their devices. I am always excited and happy to help with these events, since I know that more and more students are not building, constructing, and deconstructing objects with their hands like I did when I grew up. I am afraid they are missing great opportunities for learning as a result.