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South Valley Journal

South Hills Scores at Science Olympiad

Jun 15, 2016 09:22AM ● By Tori La Rue

The South Hills Middle School varsity Science Olympiad team poses for a picture after it took third in the state competition. – Dawn Monson

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Build a rocket out of household materials. Design a calibrated mechanical device that uses energy from a falling mass to transport an egg as close as possible to a barrier without cracking the egg. Answer questions about ancient life using fossils to identify a species’ habitat and behaviors. These are three of the 25 events that South Hills Middle School students competed in during the Utah Science Olympiad State Competition.

“This is college-level work, the kind of science it takes to pull these events off,” Dawn Monson, a science teacher at South Hills, said. “This is what these kids are going to do and be when they grow up on a larger scale. They want to build, they want to learn and do and stretch themselves, and this is one of the programs that allows them to do that now.” 

The South Hills varsity Olympiad team, composed of 15 students, scored third in state overall, taking second in Anatomy and Physiology, Disease Detectives, Meteorology, Road Scholar, Fossils and Elastic Launch Glider, and third in Reach for the Stars and Game On. The team took second in state last year. 

Monson attributes their success to the time and effort the teachers and students spend perfecting their craft. South Hill’s six science teachers—Monson, Jason Carwin, Luke Talley, Kenton Bustin, Kristel Christensen and Elizabeth Lewis—take on the role of coach at the school’s Science Olympiad practices, which are held two days a week after school. While most schools struggle to find one 15-student team, 30 students attend South Hill’s practices, 15 on the junior varsity team and 15 on varsity. 

“I think there are only four schools in the state that have two teams,” Monson said. “I think students join because they see we just have a lot of fun and make a big deal of it.” 

South Hills talks about science Olympiad in their morning announcements, newsletter and science classes, but a majority of the students joined because it was something that their friends suggested, Monson said. Erik Spencer, 14, said he joined because his older sisters recommended it. 

“We can’t really work together on science Olympiad because they’ve done different event, but it is pretty cool to be involved in the same type of activity,” Erik said. 

Part of South Hills “Brainiac” team, Erik participates in knowledge-based events. Erik was in three events at state: Meteorology, where he took a test about Earth systems; Write It/Do It, where he wrote a technical description of a unique object that his teammate had to re-create from his description; and Road Scholar, where he answered questions based on his reading of maps. 

Erik and his teammates got second place in both in Road Scholar and Meteorology. 

“I’m glad they make this into a competition because we put in a lot of hard work studying,” Erik said. “To be able to be recognized for something that you put so much effort into feels nice. When you get that medal, it’s just like they’re recognizing that.” 

For a kid who finds electricity fascinating, science Olympiad is the perfect extracurricular, Paul Taylor, said. Paul, 14, created circuits in the Shock Value event at the state competition. Because all students take part in three events, Paul also participated in Food Science, where he analyzed milk products, and Fossils, where he answered questions about classification, habitat, ecologic relationships, behaviors, environmental adaptations and the use of fossils. 

“Olympiad’s really fun, and it looks good for college,” Paul said. “It exposes you to more extra careers that you won’t have thought about without it. It’s fun to think of what I will end up doing. It’s good preparation.” 

Paul helped the South Hills team take second on the fossils event. He said he plans to continue participating in Science Olympiad at Riverton High School next year. As for South Hills, they’ve wrapped up their science Olympiad for the year, but, according to Monson, they’ll be back next year, practicing two times a week after school and hoping for another state championship.