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Celebration of Science
From an egg drop to bridge building, Portal students learn while having fun
Raven Tankersley, left, and Alaina Radford, both 10, wait with anticipation as Tankersley's entry in the Egg Drop is launched during Tuesday's Science Olympiad. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Watch the Science Olympiad in a Studio Statesboro segment. Click on link:

      One after another, Portal Elementary School Principal Paul Hudson dropped bowls, buckets and boxes filled with cotton and paper shredding from atop a ladder perch on the school playground's basketball court.
      Students huddled around the principal, counting down each drop, to see if an egg placed within their shock-absorbing creations could survive the plummet.
      Not all eggs survived - including one ejected from its insulated box and left cracked, spewing on the court's cement ground - but smiling participants cheered as the event culminated a full day of science-related activities for third through fifth grade students.

      The "egg drop" was one of 10 science challenges or activities spread throughout the day Tuesday, as part of Portal Elementary's first annual Science Olympiad.
      The school hosted the first time event so "kids would have fun participating in hands-on activities outside of the classroom and build an interest in science," said Portal Elementary teacher Stephanie Hodges. "We covered all areas of science - life science, earth science and physical science."
      Made possible by a $1,000 grant from Bulloch County's Foundation for Public Education, the Olympiad featured a string of experiments and demonstrations throughout the day, Hodges said. Hodges authored the grant application to host the event and spearheaded the project.
      "When I taught at Julia P. we did this event," she said. "I enjoyed it a lot and thought we could try it here."
      The Olympiad allowed third through fifth grade students to register for one of 10 competitions, partner up and compete with other groups.
      "Students did a variety of things today," said Hodges. "We started in the morning with an aerodynamics competition, had barge building, bridge building and a solar collecting competition."
      Other activities included the building of paper rockets, determining the identity of mystery powders and the egg drop.
In the aerodynamics competition, students using allotted materials designed their own aircraft, and vied for the longest flight distance. For the bridge building challenge, young engineers used select supplies - mostly straws - to build the most structurally sound bridge.
      The straw tower challenge rewarded students who could manufacture the tallest structure and the egg drop winners were those who could protect their egg with the lightest holder.
      Each of the 10 activities reinforced ideas and scientific principles learned in classes since the December break - when students first began signing up for the activity they would participate in.
      "I have been impressed with the amount of creativity by the kids today," said Hudson, who assisted with many of the activities. "Kids have built bridges and towers out of straws, identified animal tracks and identified mystery powders. It is interesting to see how the kids have worked together as teams and been creative."

      "This event really highlights science," he said. "Unfortunately, reading and math often get a disproportionate amount of the attention. I think today science was the star, and students were able to participate in hands-on activities, work as a team, learn more about the world around them and have fun."
      According to Hudson, students were able to choose whether or not they participated in the Olympiad - many of the challenges required work outside of the classroom. Happy with the student interest and Tuesday's results, the principle expressed hopes of expanding the event in the future to include more grade levels.
      "I would like to see us continue this in the future and expand it to include all our students," he said.
      Caleb Deal and Rhett Nichols, the pair of fifth grade students who claimed first place in the egg drop, would not protest.
      "[The Olympiad] was really fun," they said together. "I'm glad we did the egg drop," said Deal.
      The events were held in conjunction with a regular school day. Students were allowed to leave class for their lone  event before going back.
      The Olympiad was administered by Hodges, teachers Lisa and Amy Deal, Media Center specialist Carol Case and parent volunteers.

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