More than 400 third- through-fifth-graders went to school willingly Saturday, and they brought an Olympic-size enthusiasm for science.
In its annual celebration of discovery and experimentation, the Killeen Independent School District hosted its Elementary Science Olympiad, where students competed in 16 events devoted to science, at Ellison 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. They also received 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 twice a week for months to learn the games.
“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.
Duncan Elementary School campus instructional specialist Jennifer Schoel, the school’s science coach, said the preparation leading to the event goes beyond science and competition to a variety of life 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.