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South Dakota Science Olympiad Elementary School Initiative

It is my feeling that a state tournament for elementary school students is not a very practical idea.  I believe that the students at the elementary school level could still be introduced to Science Olympiad events at their level without the pressures of a rigorous competition.  So, I would like to introduce the concepts of Science Fun Day and Science Fun Night to the state of South Dakota.  Any interested elementary schools in South Dakota that decide to purchase the necessary start-up materials from the National Science Olympiad Store, would not have to submit an annual membership form to the state director.  Also, the materials will be theirs to keep.  It is my thought that each elementary school that decides to participate in Science Fun Day and/or Science Fun Night could do so as independent entities.  Each participating elementary school could do whatever events at their own pace, so that it fits within their schedule.  If students are exposed to the Science Olympiad events at a younger age and in a positive manner, then perhaps we will be able to increase our numbers for both Division B (middle school) and Division C (high school).

Science Fun Day (Division A-1: Grades K-3) Take advantage of a typical Tuesday and set up a Science Olympiad Fun Day, where the whole school (or grade) travels from classroom to classroom and participates in fun hands-on events like Gummi Bear Long Jump, Can Race, Nutrition Express, Barge Building and Rainbow Connection.  Use the gym to hold a Pentathlon contest and the multi-purpose room to fly paper airplanes in Aerodynamics Aloft.  Bring in parents and supplies, and you can make any day of the week a Fun Day!  For a great resource, look in the Science Olympiad Store for the Fun Day manual, which in 2009 will be merged with the Fun Night manual for an all-in-one school resource guide.

Science Fun Night (Division A-3: Grades K-5) During a Science Olympiad Fun Night, students in teams of three or four, led by a parent volunteer, rotate through a series of three half-hour events, each designed to meet age-appropriate skills and knowledge bases.  While the Fun Night is similar to the Fun Day in that each room hosts a different event, Fun Night relies more heavily on parent volunteerism than on staff preparation.  This is one way to lessen the load on teachers and staff while still having a very successful, curriculum-driven science event at your school.  It's also a rare chance for working parents who cannot normally participate in volunteer activities at school during the day to experience an event with their child.
One of the most exciting factors of Science Olympiad Fun Night is the addition of real scientists to the mix!  (You can also invite visiting scientists to your classroom during a Fun Day.)  When a child learns to look for scientific clues in a crime scene from a police officer from the evidence unit, it makes a lasting impression.  Fun Night gives students (and parents) an opportunity to get up close and personal with a geologist, a naturalist, an architect or an engineer - in many cases, this will be their first contact with professional or technical role models.
Science Olympiad Fun Night gets kids excited about science, and also about teamwork.  Each group of three or four is required to choose a team name and a team color, and encouraged to dress the part on the night of the event.  The Sizzling Science Sisters wore tie-dye T-shirts, while the Ladybugs wore hats covered in plastic insects.  The Blue Tornadoes painted their faces and hair blue.  It adds an aura of fun and a splash of excitement to science, which is great for the age group.  It reinforces the team concept and gives the kids an opportunity to get together before the event to plan their theme.
In an academic environment where test prep is a part of life, it's nice for kids and parents to walk into an event with no prior study requirements.  Science Olympiad Fun Night is a work-free, stress-free night of fun and exploration for the kids.  Not to say that the volunteers don't have to prepare -- because they do!  But it's one of the most satisfying and rewarding volunteer experiences you'll ever have.
For more information, please contact:
Clark Bennett
South Dakota Science Olympiad
414 E. Clark St.
Patterson Hall, Room 207
Vermillion, SD 57069