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Draper Journal

St. John Science Olympiad team places in top 10 at state

May 29, 2022 12:59PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

More than 200 miles south of their school campus, five St. John the Baptist Middle School students competed against other middle-schoolers to place in the top 10 teams in the state Science Olympiad. It was the only contest the team competed in under first-year coach Felixcia Blanchard.

“We competed because I had a student persistently ask if we could compete in Science Olympiad,” she said, so they formed a team. “I think it’s great kids really enjoy, so they want to have fun afterschool and do bunch of science experiments.”

At the April 9 state contest held at Southern Utah University, sixth-grader Mack Kesler placed second in solar power; ninth-grader Kayla Workman placed third in ornithology; seventh-graders Becket and Violette-Reine Evans placed seventh in crime busters; and eighth-grader Jaeden Pena took eighth in food science.

Science Olympiad is designed for students to learn how to apply scientific, engineering and math principles while using creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Students engage in hands-on learning experiences while gaining leadership and teamwork skills and exploring possible science and engineering careers.

St. John competed in tournaments regionally in 2020, only to have state canceled that spring with the safety and health protocols surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The team didn’t compete in 2021.

Blanchard allowed students to pick their contests based on their interest.

“Initially they were going to compete in more, but as it came closer to state, they eliminated events that they weren’t super prepared for and focused more on one event,” she said. “It was the first year most of our students competed.”

Students worked afterschool three days per week preparing.

They could do any experiments, read up on things, make study guides, do what they needed to,” said the second-year St. John teacher who instructs physics and marine science. “They helped each other out and had a good time. It’s all their enthusiasm and passion for the discipline. As a science teacher, I welcome them to use my classroom and anything they need here.”

For example, students had to prepare kits for all the events except solar power. That contest required students to heat up water using solar power.

“He (Mack) had to build his own solar-powered device and make a beaker of water heat up. With his understanding of thermal energy, he built a solar oven he layered with foil and mirrors,” she said.

Some competitions allowed a sheet of notes to be brought in. For example, crime busters and food service were allowed to take a series of chemistry related materials. However, ornithology didn’t require equipment because Kayla “had to identify taxidermied birds.”

“Science Olympiad had students research subjects they were interested in, and it empowered their own learning,” she said. “The best part was building bonds and relationships with the students and seeing them build relationships with each other because normally they may not be friends since they’re in different grade levels.”