By SHERIDAN CYR
A handful of John F. Kennedy Middle School students embraced a new challenge last Saturday. The group represented Southington at the Connecticut Middle School Science Bowl, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Nine students forfeited their free time after school twice a week since the start of this school year to meet up with teachers Rebecca Latour and Laura Maringola and be quizzed on their knowledge in topics ranging from earth and space science, physics, and chemistry to energy, math and more. They spent additional time outside of school practicing and studying on their own to prepare for the competition.
“These students show a natural passion for these topics,” said Latour. “I think this is a great opportunity for them to work together and to get to know other students who enjoy the same kinds of things.”
At an open house practice open to students’ parents on the Thursday before the competition, students split up into two teams and pressed on buzzers to respond to trivia questions. Some were multiple choice, some were short answer, but all were difficult.
“Science should be given a greater importance,” said seventh grader Alisha Paul at the open house. It was she who brought the idea to her teacher, hoping to follow in her older sister’s footsteps and form a team to compete and represent the school. “I’m very competitive, so while I’m a bit nervous for Saturday, overall I’m feeling confident.”
Seventh grader Sam Guzman expressed great interest in science, a passion which stemmed from a biology course he participated in.
“Learning about biology was such a great experience for me and it makes you realize how grateful you are to be living and learning,” said Guzman. “I am just so thankful to be proactive about my knowledge and have the chance to participate on this team.”
On Saturday, the team made it past the first round, ranking 15 out of 32 teams. From there, they went into single elimination rounds, where they advanced to the second round. They were defeated by the eventual runner up.
“The students seemed proud and happy to have done so well,” said Latour. “They didn’t want their practices at school to end now that the regional competition was over. They want to come up with plans to continue to get together after school, to either keep doing trivia for fun or to compete in hands-on science challenges.”
At the open house, two days before the competition, students were already talking about what they would do differently the next year. Latour said that one of the biggest changes would be that she would like to register as early as possible “so we have a greater chance of being able to send more than one team to the competition.”
Latour added the students would focus their studies on some of the more “cutting-edge science topics” that seemed to come up frequently at the competition on Saturday, including current research in the energy field. Additionally, she hopes to look further into current energy topics like shale gas drilling and neutrino physics.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Submitted photos by Laura Maringola