Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Scientifically speaking, students excel at Olympiad

May 14, 2008

The Tonganoxie Middle School science Olympiad team went to the state competition for the fourth straight year last month and four Warriors won medals.

Dane Erickson and Marcus Titterington received the gold medal in the "Write it, Do it" competition and Colton Young and Sidney Grinter were awarded silver medals in the "Simple Machines" event at the 2008 Kansas Science Olympiad State Tournament on April 5 at Wichita State University.

TMS was one of 29 teams at the statewide competition that features a slew of events in the categories of test, lab and construction, and Warriors finished in the top 10 in four of them.

Science teacher Dave Wahlgren, who along with fellow TMS instructors John Tollefson and Michael Bush coached the team, said this year provided a new challenge because the team was comprised of sixth- through eighth-graders whereas in the past it was made up of seventh- through ninth-graders.

"That seemed to put us at a real disadvantage for another run to the state competition," Wahlgren said. "But we had a very strong group of kids this year, especially our eighth-graders. They really provided the leadership we needed."

Tollefson said the TMS students performed well at the state competition because they invest a lot of time and work beforehand.

"Success in science Olympiad events is highly correlated with student effort and motivation during practice times and on their own time," Tollefson said. "The strong science curriculum at USD 464 plays a major role as well, of course."

The students meet some days after school as well as on Saturdays and also prepare for events on their own time at home. Wahlgren said the instructors' chief role is to put the students in a position to succeed.

"We as coaches try to fit them into the right events that mesh with their interest and talents," Wahlgren said. "From there on the kids research, practice, build and experiment. We provide help and direction when needed, but it's mainly up to the kids to be motivated enough to take over."

Tollefson said the science Olympiad is a "great venue for students to apply the concepts learned in class at a competitive event."

Wahlgren added that the whole team did a great job.

"We're very proud," he said, "of what they accomplished this year."

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