Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Practice Science Acrobatics with the Georgia Science Olympiad!

The new Georgia Performance Standards challenge Georgia teachers to make student learning more engaging and meaningful. For science teachers, activities like inquiry investigations and project-based assessment are important tools toward this end. There is now a special resource available to help Georgia science teachers develop lessons that draw on those tools: Georgia Science Olympiad (GSO).

Georgia Science Olympiad is an annual competition in which teams consisting of up to 15 students compete in 23 different events covering all fields of science, as well as some engineering and communication skills. Georgia's Science Olympiad program, the sixth largest state program in the National Science Olympiad, is divided into divisions for grades K-3, 3-5, 6-9 and 9-12. Activities vary depending on the division:
- K-3 division has in-school "fun days"
- 3-5 division has local tournaments
- 6-9 (B) division competes at regional, state and national tournaments.
- 9-12 (C) division competes at regional, state and national tournaments.

Currently, approximately 30% of Georgia middle and high schools participate in Georgia Science Olympiad. At the 2004 National Tournament at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, Georgia schools finished 1st and 4th out of 54 teams in the B Division and 22nd and 25th out of 54 teams in the C Division. This was the ninth consecutive year that Georgia produced a team that went on to win the national championship.

The National Science Foundation recently funded an evaluation of Georgia Science Olympiad to collect data and to determine its impact on students and teachers. Evidence showed that use of, or participation in, Science Olympiad events improved students' collaboration with peers, problem-solving abilities, ability to use scientific and technical equipment, self-confidence and self-esteem, scientific knowledge, and appreciation and understanding of the processes of scientific discovery and investigation. These results were observed both in students participating in the full competition and in students engaging in events used to supplement classroom instruction. More information about this research can be found at the Georgia Science Olympiad website.

Georgia Public Broadcasting is partnering with Georgia Science Olympiad to offer interactive webcasts for teachers interested in becoming GSO coaches. Recently, we produced webcast trainings on the Storm the Castle, Bridge Building, and Forestry events - and additional events are added regularly. Georgia Public Broadcasting's interactive webcasting allows teachers from all corners of the state to access high quality training on-demand.

Visit the Georgia Science Olympiad website or the GPB website to access the webcasts. For more information about getting involved in Georgia Science Olympiad, contact Dr. Milton Stombler of Georgia State University at (404) 463-9620 or mstombler@gsu.edu.