Participating in Science Olympiad, a national team science competition, is all too familiar for the seventh and eighth graders of the Longfellow Science Olympiad team. Among the 5,000 middle and high schools that qualify to compete, the team from Longfellow Middle School made its third consecutive appearance during the 24th Annual Science Olympiad National Tournament hosted by The George Washington University.
The 15-member team has prevailed in regional, state and national tournaments to represent the state of Virginia three times at Science Olympiad. This past Saturday, the team placed third in the nation for Meteorology, Simple Machines and Crave the Wave, competitive events in which students demonstrated knowledge and process skills needed to solve problems regarding meteorology, simple machines and the types of waves, respectively.
The volunteer coach of the Longfellow Science Olympiad team, Jamie Korelitz, who has no professional background in science, said it is the students’ interests in science application and technology that played a major role in the team’s advancement to the tournament.
“They’re very dedicated and work-oriented. The peer groups that [students] end up with make this very big school a much smaller place to be part of and [Science Olympiad] really enhances their enjoyment of middle school,” said Korelitz, a nursery care provider at Temple Rodef Shalom.
Science Olympiad is an international, nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of science education through activities both in and outside the classroom.
The team’s peer involvement led to its place as third in the nation in the following three events: Meteorology, Simple Machines and Crave the Wave. It also placed in the top 20 in 12 of the 23 events.
“They’re all so interested in science, which is why we keep this program going. The program is there for the students because they like science and are looking for more to do. It is doing well because of their enjoyment,” Korelitz said.
Korelitz said students have become more responsible in answering their own questions by researching and discussing experiments with members of the community.
In fact, seventh grader Hope Flaxman relied on the assistance of Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading global consulting firm, to aid her in one challenge building and testing a tower of minimum weight designed to carry a specified load.
“We kept on building and rebuilding and [the tower] got better each time,” said Flaxman. “Before I didn’t know what steps to go through and what worked best, but now I learned how to go through steps and how you have to rebuild and prove that you have to learn from your mistakes to get better.”
Though many events featured interactive projects, written tests were administered as part of the academic events in the tournament.
Ben Rosenblum, 14, competed in Disease Detectives, a trial that required students to apply principles of epidemiology to a published report of a real-life health situation or problem.
For Rosenblum, an eighth grader at Longfellow Middle, the test’s material aligned with his budding career goal of becoming a cytotechnologist, studying cellular abnormalities.
“I like doing Disease Detectives because it’s actually a career that I might try to pursue,” Rosenblum said.
Students are constantly redesigning projects and test-taking strategies to compete in tournaments.
“What’s most important is that students take tests and study throughout the year. There are different parameters for test-taking at different levels, there’s regional, state and nationals, so they have to fine tune their skills the higher they go,” Korelitz said.
Rosenblum’s mother, Dixie Johnson, said achievement in science education is possible with encouragement from teachers.
“I think teachers are the key to this. Ben didn’t really fall in love with science until his seventh grade teacher introduced it to him and that’s what really helped him catch the bug,” Johnson said.