NAPILI - With nearly half of the students in its Middle School competing, Maui Preparatory Academy recently finished in second place in the eighth annual Statewide Science Olympiad Tournament.
Maui Prep finished behind Iolani School in the Middle School (Division B) contest at Leeward Community College on Oahu.
"We are very happy for the Iolani School winning first place and getting a chance to represent Hawaii at the national competition and thrilled to place second in the whole state," said teacher Carrie DeMott, who coaches the team with Chris Border and Krishna Narayan.
Maui Preparatory Academy’s Middle School team came in second in the 2012 Statewide Science Olympiad Tournament.
"There were so many more schools and events this year! To place second in the whole state with a team that is almost half of our middle school is pretty impressive. We are planning a party to celebrate everyone's hard work."
After advancing out of the Maui tournament, team members Nainoa Moore, Griffin Sagar, Molly Manafo, Lexie Leon, Cassidy Otto, Alexa Narayan, Zac Giles, JJ Jerome, Nick Head, Jonah Bluh, Coleman Kingwell, Jessica Kingwell, Sydney Gilbert, Joshua Ancheta and Danielle Bergson practiced after school for 90 minutes or more 3-5 days a week.
"We were extremely fortunate to have parents helping with coaching this year. Many parents came to help supervise students on building events. Krishna Narayan, one of our parents, was at school most days after school and helped keep the kids organized and focused," DeMott explained.
"We made a practice schedule that gave students time to study, build and practice tests that they would have at the event.?We gave them time limits and tried to give them a glimpse at what they would be expected to do at the competition."
Throughout the day on Oahu, students participated in 30 different events covering a wide spectrum of fields related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Topics included astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, genetics, medicine, physics and rocketry.
Events include Bottle Rocket, Disease Detectives, Experimental Design, Food Science, Microbe Mission, Mission Possible, Mouse Trap Vehicles, Optics, Rocks and Minerals, Storm the Castle, Towers and Write it, Do it.
DeMott said students get excited about the contest, the events and new avenues of learning.
She said, "I overheard one of our students at practice saying, 'I wish we could do this every day!' "
"SO (Science Olympiad) areas give students a chance to learn way more than they would in class in specific areas. The breadth and depth that they explore is amazing. They end up knowing more about some topics than their teachers, and they are in middle school! I've seen kids who didn't think they were 'good' at science begin to think of science as a possibility for a career," DeMott continued.
"For me, I really think the SO is a challenge for educators as well. It builds on some of the best practices - exploratory learning in real-world scenarios. It requires students to problem solve, troubleshoot and work cooperatively. It demands that they be supportive of each other and meet time demands. They experience success and failure, learning how to face each with respect and dignity. From the educator, SO demands extensive planning and support from the learning community. It brings families into the learning experience, supporting the kids and their growth."
Maui Prep's team had ten new kids this year, with five returning students. Most of the students are sixth- and seventh-graders.
For many of the students, it was their first look at a state contest in any field.
"We decided to make our trip to Oahu more of an educational trip and were able to make arrangements to go to see the HURL (Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory) submersibles and get a tour of the petrology labs at U.H. Manoa. Having the opportunity to meet scientists and see their work was exciting for the kids. The University of Hawaii really made our tours possible," DeMott said.
"Getting middle school students to begin thinking about college and careers in science is an important part of the Science Olympiad... With the support of the school and community members, the Science Olympiad has really enhanced our science offerings at Maui Preparatory Academy."
Going up against much bigger schools, Maui Preparatory Academy placed first among middle schools at the Statewide Science Olympiad in 2010 and 2011, earning trips to the national tournament.
This year, with the contest done, students are exploring other fun after-school options. Coaches are back spending time with their families.
"I'm excited to have more time to plan field studies for my science classes. My seventh-graders are going to be spending some time in the water doing reef explorations," DeMott explained.
"We will start up with practices next school year."
Iolani also won the High School (Division C) bracket.
Maui's St. Anthony's Junior-Senior High School was honored with a 2012 Spirit Award for demonstrating school spirit, personal pride and good sportsmanship throughout the day.
Students from Baldwin High School, King Kekaulike High School and Lahaina Intermediate School also competed at the state meet.