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Olympiad shows students that science is everywhere

By Staff | Oct 14, 2016

Last week, beginning Oct. 3, the Jefferson County Community Center hosted approximately 750 sixth graders for the county’s annual Science Olympiad.

Sixth grade students from Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, Charles Town and Wildwood middle schools participated in various activities that revolved around science.

The Olympiad is a day where 6th grade students experience hands-on activities from all realms of science with people who volunteer their time to present an activity to groups of students.

The 12 volunteers this year included volunteers from the National Parks Service, West Virginia Department of Forestry, United States Department of Agriculture, Potomac Valley Audubon Society Master Naturalists and even the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for place based education for our children to see the natural resources of the community that they need to protect and preserve,” Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson, superintendent for the Jefferson County School system, said.

“This is a great opportunity to spark their interest in careers and stem and it’s a good opportunity for them to connect with adults in the community who are apart of businesses and organizations who can give them those opportunities, not just for careers but for all of their interest areas and clubs,” Gibson continued.

“It’s a great exploration and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s a good chance for us to partner with Jefferson County Parks and Recreation and nature conservancy’s and all of these other organizations who are devoted to the same things that we are,” Gibson said.

Activities for the Olympiad included owl pellet dissections, nature walks, fish dissections and learning how police officers use science to find out who was at fault in car accidents.

Jennifer Lowe, a 6th grade science teacher at Harpers Ferry Middle School, said she brings knowledge from the Science Olympiad into the classroom by having her students write journals.

“What I have my students do is journal writing. During class we’ll take a 10 minute break and I’ll have them write what their favorite two stations were,” Lowe said.

“The Olympiad gives the students a nice variety so they can see that science isn’t about teaching or reading a book, it’s real life and it’s everywhere,” Lowe added.

Candy Cain, a coordinator for the Science Olympiad, said the mission for the event was to get the students interested in science.

“We want these kids to get excited about science and start thinking about a career in science because we are going to need these kids to be our curers of cancer and our builders of bridges that won’t fall down and they’re going to be growing our crops and preparing our food. It is important for them to see what is out there and this is exposure for them. We want them to see what’s there and what is available to them,” Cain said.

Cain said they chose to bring in people from outside the school system to give the students a different learning experience.

“We wanted them to be with experts of the field and these are people who have made choices with their career and we want their enthusiasm and their passion to ooze over to these kids because these people who volunteer their time to be with these kids to spread their message. These kids are going to be the stewards of our Earth and we want them to see the enthusiasm and passion these people who have made their career in whatever field of science they chose,” Cain explained.