The time is here… Again… Time for Elementary Science Olympiad Teams to gather together and a rapport developed between students and teachers. In addition to the public and private school teams, our group of homeschoolers will be participating in our second year of the Elementary Science Olympiad. The competition itself was a fun experience, however it was the preparation which drove us (primarily me) crazy!
Last year our team formed through a few yahoo groups where interested families replied to the request to join the team. At first there were a lot of families, but when it was made known that each parent would need to be a coach for at least one of their child’s teams quite a few families dropped out. I guess very few really felt like they could do a decent job of it. Even my self-confidence was lacking, and I have a degree in Biology! Nevertheless, those that remained gathered up their courage and we stumbled through this together. After our first meeting (in November) each child was asked to put together a list of events they were most interested in participating in. Personally, I thought he would be excellent at Experimental Design and Disease Detectives, but a mother’s insight is only worth so much at this age, as his list reflects:
Fast forward to January, the teams were formed and away we went with preparation! Giant was a bit bummed because after all he Loves to make paper airplanes and solving mysteries, but he didn’t get either. He was assigned to Circuit Wizardry and Bioprocess Lab. I volunteered to coach the Bioprocess Lab team, all the while unsure of what I had retained from my studies all these years later, which turned out to be a point of stress. It was a first for our area ESO to have a homeschool team enter the competition and a first for, I believe, all of us as parents to coach an ESO team. For this reason, our leading parent just wanted us to go into this competition to have fun. Apparently I have a subversive competitive nature deep within me that chose, at this particular, most inopportune time, to rear its head. Deep within, I wanted my child to have major fun, but I also wanted him to win! Could those two desires coexist in harmony, especially in an event as broad and wide as Bioprocess Lab? It’s a little hard to walk in the door and win a medal in Bioprocess on your first try. Did I say a little? I meant a Lot! Much harder for us, as homeschoolers, who take life a little easier and view education in a more holistic, mastery, experiential, and interest-led manner.
While trying to show Giant the bright side and quell my insecurity I decided to research the event. What were we up against? What did they want the children to know? What was the time frame for the test? Would the test format be paper and pencil, hands-on, or both? Through my research I came across different sites that contained tests from previous years, most at the middle school level. Finally, I was able to see ALL of what had been tested in previous years and I was astounded! The breadth of knowledge required by the test went from basic leaf structure to genetics, the scientific method, microscopy, laboratory safety and lab skills, ecology, nutrition, population density, cellular biology, and more! There was so much that I knew I hadn’t covered with my son yet and it made me even more nervous! I didn’t want him to feel dumb while doing the event. I wanted him and his partner to at least feel confident about most of the material, but with only seven weeks to the competition and no knowledge of what Giant’s partner already knew, I had to make a plan fast! So for the next month and a half, we met with his two partners at different times and different places, because unlike the regular schools, we aren’t able to work together every weekday in the same setting. Many obstacles lay in our paths, including working around schedules and each parent’s teaching style and attempting to mesh together my desire for concept mastery with a teaching to the test necessity. At one point I think I offended a mother, although I’m not sure what I did, but she did seem to get a bit upset at how I taught. Studying for this competition became our science for those two months, and I didn’t like it at all! At the time, it screwed up my plans for my family to learn botany and review astronomy. I stressed myself out with worrying about how to teach the Bioprocess team what they needed to learn in a way that they could retain it. I kept thinking, what did I get us into? But was it worth it?
Check out Part 2 to find out!