St. John Berchmans School Reigns as 10 Time Science Olympiad State Champions!

0518SJB

by Mary Simpson

The St. John Berchmans Science Olympiad team won the State Science Olympiad competition held in Hammond, LA in March of this year – in fact, they have won it 10 times in a row! The team will represent the state of Louisiana when they head to Ft. Collins, CO, to compete in the National Science Olympiad Competition in May.

The National Science Olympiad was started 30 years ago as a grassroots gathering of science teachers. The short version of their mission is “… Improve the quality of K-12 science education, increase interest in science, create a technologically literate workforce and provide recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers.” The achievement of that mission is through the tournaments, incorporating Science Olympiad into classroom curriculum and attending professional development workshops. Over 7,800 teams from across the country compete in invitational, regional, state and national tournaments. Each team consists of 15 members. Teams compete in 23 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) events.

St. John Berchmans School (SJB) began Science Olympiad 12 years ago with Jo Cazes, principal at the time. Along with the late Norma Waters and Amy Knight, they coached and developed student skills to compete in Science Olympiad. This commitment to STEM was pervasive throughout the whole school. SJB not only became a STEM school, but it is now a STREAM school (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math).

When Cazes came to SJB, it was a time of transition. She brought the Science Olympiad program to give the students a “win.” That win began the second year they competed and has not stopped since.

Amy Knight is one of the coaches who started as a parent, and then not only became involved with Science Olympiad, she became the middle school science teacher at SJB. For her, the best thing about Science Olympiad is, “Being able to expose our students, from our small school to a nationally recognized program.” She went on to say, “the material they learn is at the high school level.” Many of the students take the knowledge and skills they learn and receive college scholarships. Knight added, “I am proud of how much effort our students put in to win medals and State Championship titles. They earn that trophy every year. It isn’t just given to us.”

Students have to try out for the Science Olympiad team. They join Science Olympiad for many reasons. Reese Mekelburg, a sixth grader, who is new to Science Olympiad, wanted to join the team as soon as he was old enough. He loves science. He loves to tinker and figure things out. His mother, Rene, loves the experience of the kids creating friendships through the different age groups.

“Seeing the mentors guide and help these kids is a wonderful experience. They give up so much of their time to help these kids. As a parent, this is a great benefit not only educationally, but socially as he learns to work with others.”

SJB reaps the benefits of Science Olympiad through the implementation of STEM curriculum. Students who participate have much to offer in the classroom. Since middle school science is collaborative, other students get to share in the knowledge and skills of the Olympians. While the competition outside of school is done by the middle schoolers, the elementary students participate in a mini Science Olympiad in the spring. Third, fourth and fifth grade students create projects in various STEM areas and compete in an afternoon full of science. Students learn how to collaborate and solve a multitude of scientific challenges.

SJB proudly displays 10 banners as state Science Olympiad state champions in the school’s multi-room. Students who have graduated from SJB have continued studying science in many areas, including graduating college with engineering degrees, attending medical school and conducting research in other scientific fields. Students are prepared academically to work hard and implement the Scientific Method.

The SJB Science Olympiad team will be traveling to the national tournament on May 17, 2018. Please keep this team in your prayers for a safe journey. There is a current fundraising drive as parents pay the cost of travel for their children. If you would like to contribute to this program, please send donations to the school office at St. John Berchmans School, 947 Jordan Street, Shreveport.

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