Sixth graders study science as annual Olympiad returns | Journal news

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Jefferson County’s sixth-grade students enjoyed an out-of-the-classroom learning experience this week as they traveled from their schools to Sam Michaels Park to participate in the annual Science Olympiad. The program has been on hold since the onset of COVID-19, returning over six days this week.

“We brought one school a day, even though we had to split a couple of the larger schools over two days each,” explained Joel Silver, coordinator of middle schools for Jefferson County.

Students took part in multiple hands-on activities and experiments to show practical applications in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“The students average eight to 12 station changes a day,” Silver said, adding that the Olympiad lasts a full day. Boxed lunches were provided by the school cafeteria staff for the students to take to the park.

“The students have lots of fun learning about science this way,” explained Erin Miranda, assistant principal of Harpers Ferry Middle School and coordinator of the event.

Teachers from each school, as well as parent and community volunteers, manned stations offering learning experiences on topics from monarch butterflies and trout to how invisible ink works to how to recreate an accident scene.

“We had a paper plane building lab,” said Silver, adding that the students then had a competition to see which plane flew the farthest. “They learned about the styles of plans and the engineering involved.”

“My favorite thing was learning about horseshoe crabs,” said Jaye Ray, a student at Harpers Ferry Middle School. “I didn’t know they had 10 legs.”

Austin Marshall, also a student at Harpers Ferry, shared that his favorite session involved the accident scene recreation. The session was led by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Rob Sell, who had students calculating skid marks and speed in relation to accidents.

“I learned that you need to go to the speed limit or you can be charged with a lot of things,” Marshall said. “I also learned that you don’t drink and drive.”

Sean Wagner agreed with Marshall, saying that his favorite part was learning how friction changes how fast a car will go.

The Science Olympiad has been a longstanding, annual event, with roots going back to an agreement between the school system and the Smithsonian Institute. While the official partnership was dissolved somewhere around 2000, the school system has continued to provide the Olympiad as a learning experience for each sixth-grade student.

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