In its annual celebration of discovery and experimentation the Killeen Independent School District hosted its Elementary Science Olympiad on Saturday, where more than 400 students from 29 elementary schools competed in 16 events devoted to science.

With 145 educators serving as coaches and 80 judges and 60 volunteers providing support, 435 students measured, designed, built and estimated in a huge event spread across Killeen High School.

Reeces Creek Elementary School finished in first place. Clifton Park finished in second and Nolanville took third place. Brookhaven Elementary School won the sportsmanship award.

The top four finishers in each event won medals and the top three teams won trophies. First-place Reeces Creek took possession of a large traveling trophy.

“It’s very exciting,” said Patrice Robinson, Reeces Creek assistant principal and one of five coaches. “The best part is the excitement you see on the kids’ faces. We worked hard. These kids practiced for months.”

When they heard their school’s name called at the culmination of the awards ceremony, students leaped from their seats and cheered wildly. “I didn’t think we would win,” said fifth-grader Grace Massa. “I was very surprised. It was awesome.”

She and other Reeces Creek students and coaches said the victory came from hard work, with all team members attending practice sessions and help from a variety of teachers and from soldiers from the school’s adopt-a-school unit.

Winning was exciting, but it wasn’t the focus, student participants said.

“I’m happy we won,” said Reeces Creek fifth-grader Christian Demapan, “but I really like spending time with my friends on a Saturday.” He said his team practiced twicea week for months to learn the games.

FUN AND LEARNING

“I like trying new things I haven’t tried before,” said fourth-grader Yajaira Flores as she sat with two of her Hay Branch Elementary School team members preparing to inflate a balloon made of tissue.

“It doesn’t matter about winning, it’s about having fun,” she said.

“I like how we can put science into activities so we can know about it and so we can have fun and learn,” said Hay Branch third-grader Czarina Otero.

“We get to have fun learning,” said Hay Branch fourth-grader Phillip Garrett. “We also get to make new friends.”

Duncan Elementary School campus instructional specialist Jennifer Schoel, the school’s science coach, said she saw the benefits of the Olympiad from the standpoint of an educator and as the mother of two participants.

The weeks of preparation leading to the event goes beyond science and competition to a variety of life skills.

REAL WORLD SKILLS

“It fosters critical thinking and teamwork,” she said. “These students take content deeper and they are formulating solutions. It’s very real world and real life.”

Students communicate with each other, struggle to find answers, disagree and keep going, she said. “These are life skills beyond science,” Schoel said.

“It’s cool because kids do different activities like aerodynamics and owl pellets,” said Meadows Elementary School fifth-grader Delaney O’Neal. She referred to events that called on students to build and fly paper airplanes and to reconstruct a skeleton from owl droppings.

Referencing the hot-air balloons built from tissue, the fifth-grader said she and her classmates had to be gentle with the fragile material and to find holes to patch. “We learned that it’s possible.”

“I like everything about it,” said Meadows fifth-grader Oleander Kinere. “I like that we get to compete. I thought it would be fun and it is.”

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