The ESO is a statewide competition, held for the past 14 years in Georgia, in which school-aged children compete in 18 science-based events ranging from bridge building with straws to identifying planets and constellations to map reading. The objective of the event is to engage children in fun, interactive learning and to enhance their comprehension of science fundamentals.
Dawn Hudson, director of curriculum and instructional support, said, “We focus on S.T.E.M., which stands for science technology in engineering and math, in fact new standards for science will be rolling out in a couple years. They are more engineering based, as are the events here today. We want students to learn to think not just memorize material. So you’ll see the students active and participating in things like this event to get them ready for real life. It’s applying the knowledge of science and math to real life, getting them ready for jobs and careers.”
At Hamilton Crossing Elementary, Gina Miller is a first grade teacher but also leads the school’s science olympiad team. “There are so many objectives and standards that we, as teachers, are trying to meet. Life goes so fast. It is wonderful to slow down a bit and concentrate on things that are fun, exciting and really drive them to want to learn. This also equips them with the ability to think critically. It creates an environment for them to learn the vital skills of thinking outside the box and problem solving. We are using science to foster those important concepts that will help them tremendously later on in life.”
Kendall Laurent, a fourth grader at Hamilton Crossing Elementary, said every week she looks forward to the after-school learning group. “I love the ocean and I love learning about animals every week. This is my second year competing and it is so much fun.”
The program made some changes to its structure this year. In the past the competition was held exclusively among the schools within the county and the winners would advance to the state round. Now the state’s schools are divided into regions; the local region is comprised of Bartow and Paulding counties and may later include schools in Douglasville.
Hudson said, “We are so excited to have so many more students involved. We had to add regional events. In Bartow [the competition] has been going on for 13 years. Last year we had 69 teams across the state compete, whereas this year we’ve had 120 teams compete due to our splitting into regions. So seeing this many more kids involved is an exciting time for science.”