Science Olympiad at Mount Baker Middle School

Students gather at Science Olympiad event.

Students gather at Science Olympiad event.

Nothing motivates my students like participating in Science Olympiad.  Science Olympiad has been a part of Mount Baker Middle School (MBMS) for the past seven years.

“Science Olympiad is a great way to learn science in the real world and have fun. I love earning medals in recognition of my hard work throughout the year,”

~Matt, grade 8

It started as an after-school club with one team of twelve students, and has grown into an elective class during the school day for 65 students making up four teams. The Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) elective class is a challenging class that requires students to be self-motivated, independent learners. Students are challenged to learn advanced science and math content, build and test projects creatively and reliably, and use high levels of problem-solving and teamwork skills.

Science Olympiad includes challenging events in all STEM disciplines and provides competition among schools across the region, state, and country. The 23 events rotate annually and are comprised of all science subjects, including life science, earth and space science, physical science, chemistry, technology & engineering, and inquiry and nature of science. There are three types of events. Engineering events require students to build and test objects including building structures, robots, cars, towers, bridges, and trajectories. Inquiry events require students to do hands-on activities and solve problems in areas such as food science, measurement, map skills, forensics, simple machines, and electricity. Last, academic events require students to study a topic comprehensively to become experts in identifying and answering questions about their topics including fossils, anatomy, diseases, ecology, meteorology, ornithology, astronomy, and rocks and minerals. Students prepare for three or four events, and then have the opportunity to compete against students from other schools in local and state tournaments. They come back from competitions energized and focused on what they need to do to improve both as individuals and as teams. Two of our four teams have qualified at the regional tournament and moved on to the state tournament for the past three years.

Students learn more than just science content and process through Science Olympiad. The curriculum and course design compels students to become proficient in 21st century skills including collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and perseverance. Students work in pairs for all events, and the team progresses to the next level as a group. So students increase their ability to work with a variety of partners and develop a real sense of team spirit. Students become leaders in their other classes, and their confidence in science, math, inquiry and collaborative skills increases. After competitions, students are often seen proudly wearing their science team sweatshirts and medals around school. Not only does this invoke student pride, but acts as a walking billboard for STEM, as well. After seeing students walk around school with their sweatshirts and medals, many non-STEM 7th graders inquire as to what they need to do to become a STEM student.

At MBMS, Science Olympiad is open to all interested students regardless of ability, resulting in very diverse teams. Students range from highly capable to those served in special education and those who qualify for English Language Learner (ELL) services. Many students are from families in poverty (our school has a 70% free and reduced lunch rate), including migrant families. The range of activities provided in the Science Olympiad curriculum allows for everyone to participate and shine in their areas of strength, and challenge themselves in areas that might not come so easily.

You can find more information about science Olympiad at www.soinc.org.