In 2013, Science Teacher, Mrs. Kim Strong began the Science Olympiad Program at La Pietra. Since then La Pietra has competed and placed in every Science Olympiad State Tournament. This past March, the Division B team placed 6th and the Division C team placed 7th. Mrs. Strong also received the Outstanding Coaches Award, which includes a prize trip to the National Science Olympiad Summer Coaches Institute in Arizona.
Mrs. Strong has been teaching for over 30 years. She was on the Board of the Hawaii State Science Olympiad from 2007 to 2017 and during her spare time she started the Elementary Science Olympiad program in Hawaii in 2013. From 2013 to 2017, she grew the Elementary Science Olympiad participation from 6 schools to over 20 participating schools on Oahu. She also expanded Elementary Science Olympiad to include Maui, Big Island, Kauai and Molokai.
She explains, "I want my students to see this program as an opportunity to spark their interests for their future. For example, if there is an event that sparks the idea of 'this is what I want to do for the rest of my life', then that is an accomplishment for me. I also want them to enjoy and love science. To see that it is challenging and that nothing we do will be easy, but by working hard and overcoming obstacles, you can achieve anything. More importantly, I want them to feel confident in what they are doing, while knowing that it takes work and it pays off when they work hard."
10th Grader, Savanna Ton, has been part of the program since she was in the 6th Grade. She says, "I really value how much time I have taken outside of school to really broaden my prospective about science. I've learned a lot about science, but also time management and study skills which has really given me a life lesson on how to manage my time wisely."
The teams meet twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday from 3:15 to 4:30 starting in August and ending in March. For some of the events, especially the popular ones, they have to try out for the event. They go through a testing process and then the top two finishers get placed for that specific event. The next step is the preparation process of getting all of the items and resources they need to execute the event or task. Then throughout the course of the year, Mrs. Strong develops her own tests or gives tests from outside resources for students to practice. Lastly, it is getting the girls to do what they need to do.
"It gets tricky because I want the girls to be able to do what they need to do, but some of them have basketball, volleyball, and other clubs they participate in, and I want them to be able to do other things, but also stay focused towards each tournament," says Mrs. Strong.
There is a lot that takes place into preparing each girl for the tournament.
Mrs. Strong illustrates, "For an event like Disease Detective, there is a resource that is 348 pages long and how do the girls know what is important and what is not so important. We have to collectively decipher all of that and figure out what we need to know and how much of it we can understand, since a lot of it is college level material."
Savanna has loved everything that Science Olympiad has taught her. She says, "I have always envisioned myself pursuing a computer science degree and there's an Olympiad event called 'Game On'. In the event you have to learn how to program quickly and innately to have the project seamlessly work. By participating in this event, it has definitely solidified my passion for computer science and programming."
For Mrs. Strong this is exactly what her goals are. She says, "If I know that I sparked something in just a few of the kids and they eventually pursue a career because of something we do in here, then that is my proudest moment."
Mrs. Strong is looking forward to next year and is excited that the class will be incorporated into the curriculum and offered as an elective. Thus, student's will be able to work on it during class as well as the extra time afterschool.
Mrs. Strong credits the parents for their unwavering support of the program. "This would not be possible if it wasn't for the parents who are so supportive both with their projects and making sure they have the nutrition they need at tournaments. If it wasn't for them and the school, all of this would have not been possible."