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Author Biography: My training as a teacher began at Geneva College with a BA in History/Social Science.

After graduation, I taught for five years in two schools in the Pittsburgh area, and then took 16 years away from the classroom to take care of my children. In 2000 I was hired by TopTutors.com to be an online tutor and the next year I began teaching in my current school district, Weatherly Area in Weatherly, Pennsylvania. From that time to the present I have taught American and World History in both the Middle School and High School, directed the gifted program for the district, and became a Classrooms for the Future coach. Because our district is one of the smallest in Pennsylvania, I still help teachers with technology as a coach even though it is not one of my official duties. During this school year I am still director of the gifted program and I facilitate online classes for our high school students. To continue my studies with technology in education, I entered the doctoral program at Wilkes University in 2009. I am a DEN STAR Educator. Activity Summary
Entering your students in competitions takes on new meaning when you tell your students that you are not entering the competition to win, you are entering to learn, and winning is icing on the cake. There are many ways to make social connections while competing, if you dig to find them. This chapter will look at competitions your students can attend, competitions that are held online and how you can encourage your students to reach out and connect with others to learn and grow. A list of competitions with helpful hints is included. Class or subject area: Language Arts, Social Studies, STEM Grade level(s): 6-12 Specific learning objectives: Guides teachers and students to ways to connect with others while competing in competitions with the outcome to be learning, not winning Gives teachers helpful hints in encouraging student competition Serves to promote both online and face-to-face competition and connections. Gives list of competitions, with guidance included

Anniversary Book Project

5th

Its Not Just Icing on the Cake in Student Competitions


By: Katie Leach Creative Commons License: CC BY-NC-SA Author contact: leachk@weatherlysd.org

Entering your students in competitions takes on new meaning when you tell your students that you are not entering the competition to win, you are entering to learn, and winning is icing on the cake. There are many ways to make social connections while competing, if you dig to find them. This chapter will look at competitions your students can attend, competitions that are held online and how you can encourage your students to reach out and connect with others to learn and grow. A list of competitions with helpful hints is included. Competitions to attend Face-to-Face Email is one of the first social networking tools, and it can be easily used to network college professors with your K-12 students. At a Science Olympiad competition, one of my students noticed a sign on a bulletin board by the math department, Can you answer this? If so email Professor Eckert @...... A few days later, my student said he knew the answer but he was hesitant to email a professor. I told him the professor wanted someone to answer the questions. Give it a try, explain to the professor that you are high school student and see if he responds. Not only did the professor respond, the professor and my student emailed one another about math competitions and the professor recommended that my student buy a book he had written. In my experience, professors do want to help young scholars with true passion for their subject. Also, while you have your students on a college campus, try to take students on a tour of the campus, especially to the offices of the subject areas your students are interested in. For the first time this year, my students entered the Odyssey of the Mind competition. I read and reread the instruction and was flummoxed. The only reason I wanted to have my students enter this competition was because I had heard great things about it at a gifted conference, and my principal said it was fantastic. Obviously I was missing something. So I made a social connectionI emailed the woman in charge of my region and said I am new at this, and I neede help. She answered many of my questions and worked on arranging one of the judges to come to our school to help up understand more about this particular problem and how the presentation fits in. She also directed me to the competition website, which had many great resources. Our eight-minute presentation at the Odyssey of the Mind lasted all of 10 seconds because we accidentally dropped a heavy weight on our project, smashing it to pieces. But, we learned a great deal, and that is the heart of competitions. We came home amazed at all we had learned just while we were at the competition, watching the creativity of other teams and the shapes of their structures. The students were discussing what they wanted to try for next year in the van on the way home. Mission Accomplished. Connecting to other coaches, via email and face-to-face is great for advise and ideas. You can get a lot of information from other coaches while the competition is going on. Often coaches will be assigned to a room (with refreshments) while the competition is going on. During this time you can ask other coaches about competitions they enjoy taking their students to. Occasionally we have run into competitions that require a waiting list, but get on the list a soon as you can, you can always decline if you do get in and are unable to attend. . I actually took a group of students to a competition specifically because a coach told me that a professor worked with students to prepare them for a national team competition, but the student had to be very good at math. One of our students did do well enough to be on his team and has gone on to participate in national competitions.

Competitions Online Often online competitions have links and resources, including experts, readily available to help you and your students. Some competitions will help you create a chat room for your team (eCybermission) and/or have volunteers available online to help you. These competitions are generally nationwide and a great deal of effort has been put into place to help both students and advisors. Competitions will host webinars for students. These webinars will be full of helpful information and are geared to get students excited about learning and competing in their competition. If your team is uncertain about entering a competition because they lack ideas, this is a perfect solution to jump-start your team. The people involved in the webinar will often give their contact information, and that can be a starting point for students with questions concerning information in the webinar. Templates may be available for students to fill out as they progress through the completion of the project, and timelines help students stay on task so they are not waiting until the last minutes to complete their project. Some competitions offer prizes if a portion of the work is completed by a certain date. This is a positive reinforcement for students. Hints for competing What do students fear in competing in competitions? One of the biggest concerns is letting you or parents down. Recently I had a student that was top-notch in math. Every time we went to a competition, he told me he would not do well because he didnt get enough sleep, or he was working on homework, or he didnt feel very well. At one competition, after competing all morning and calculating we were in the top two positions, he told me not to expect us to win, he was tired. In my mind, I was trying to figure out if he was nervous, or afraid to lose but I never expected that he was afraid he would let me down! I told him to just go to the second part of the competition and have fun. His whole demeanor changed. All of a sudden, he smiled and turned to his teammates and acted as if our conversation never took place. You probably know the rest of the story. Our team was unbeatable and we won the competition. I believe he just needed to know he would not let me down. Give it your best and make learning the priority. I teach in one of the smallest school districts in Pennsylvania. We cannot offer courses that larger, more affluent schools offer, so our strategy is simple. Just give it your best. When we have questions we do not know, or an author is mentioned that we are unfamiliar with, we look them up on smart phones in the van on the way home from the competition. Other team members and their coaches can be quite intimidating. Until I began coaching, I had no idea of the strategies coaches and teams use against competitors. Some teams come to competitions and do not smile. Wow, is that intimidating. Others make snide remarks like, Weatherly? You from the boon docks? Just this year we had a situation that thankfully was nipped in the bud by the other teams coach. One of my students went to the snack machine. While getting a candy bar, students from another team asked her about the kid with long hair on our team. They wanted to know if it was a boy or girl. My student said he was a boy and the other team began to make fun of him. She began to cry and thankfully the other teams coach heard the conversation and stopped it. Tell your students to be ready for anything, but always do what is right in any situation. Warn them that incidents like this can happen, so when it happens, they will not be shaken.

Read and re-read the rules. Sometimes there is just one thing you might forget to do, and your team will be disqualified. In a public service announcement, we forgot four words, Drive Safe in Pennsylvania and were therefore disqualified. Students spend hours searching for statistics of car crashes due to passengers not wearing seatbelts, our backgrounds and audio were seamless, but in all the bells and whistles of our PSA, we forget those words and were very upset that all the work would not even be listened to. But, believe me, that team ALWAYS wears seatbelts. Read and re-read what the judges are looking for. When students work on a project, sometimes their ideas lead to other ideas and soon they are off-track. This happens when students research and get ideas, or speak to an expert that gives them an idea, or something to look into, but it takes them away from what the judges are looking for. In competitions, look for the weight of items to be judged and this will help you stay on task. If 10% of the score is based on audio/visual and 80% on creativity of the solution, dont spend hours on a dynamic powerpoint with bells and whistles such animated clip art, transitions, etc. Encourage students to go through the competitions website carefully, there could be past tests, to download and work through. There might be winning projects that will spur new ideas for your students. If there are links on the site, take time to click through, and carefully read through what is there, and follow other links for help. If names and projects are mentioned, take the time to look at the material by these people and see what they have done. There also might be further competitions at the next level. At our local American Legion, our winners meet the members of the local American legion, but their essays go to county, district and state competitions if they are winners. Before we go to the competition sites, there is one more very important hintplease make the times preparing for the competitions enjoyable, especially with snacks! The students are taking extra time to work on these projects, so make it fun and memorable for them. And now to the websites of competitions! Check each one for ways to use the competitions in the classrooms and connect with the people in charge. History Day www.nhd.org - Great site for students in Middle School and High School. Students create an exhibit, a website, a documentary, a performance or write a paper about an event in history to match each years theme. Students are encouraged to find primary sources for the work, which would include the social connections to the people in history who are still living. Intel Science Fair http://www.intel.com/about/corporateresponsibility/education/isef/index.htm - Great resources here. One of our students entered in the high school math division and won 1st place because no one else entered! eCybermission https://www.ecybermission.com/public/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fDefault.aspx - One of the best online competitions we have done. eCybermission goes to great lengths to help your students with a chat room, people to help you, timetables, etc. TEAMS Engineering Healthier Lives http://teams.tsaweb.org/teams/index.html - This is a one day competition that places you against schools at your size level. There are many divisions for size, and selective schools are not in the same divisions with public schools.

Scholastic Scrimmage (our local PBS station) http://www.wvia.org/television/local-programs/scholastic-scrimmage - Scholastic Scrimmage can also be called Knowledge Bowl or Quiz Bowl. We have started our own county competition and invited our state representative to be the Quiz Master. Marywood Math Competition http://www.marywood.edu/math/contest/results2012.html - This is a local competition, but if you look at the test results for 2012, you will see that one student found mistakes on the test, opening a dialogue between the professor and the students. This professor was very gracious and thanked the student for finding the errors. Gold Math Exam http://www.bucknell.edu/x1160.xml - Old tests can be found here, again this is a local competition Lehigh Valley Math Exam http://www.lehigh.edu/~dmd1/hs.html - This is a competition that is a feeder competition to find members for the American Regions Mathematics League. Look for competitions that can help your students work with college professors. Science Olympiad http://soinc.org/workshops - Although I have not personally attended these workshops, they are available. Odyssey of the Mind http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/ - Helpful links here. This is a tough competition, which takes hours and hours of work, but students do give it rave reviews. Purple Comet Math Competition http://purplecomet.org/ - This is a world wide math competition that can be done by computer during the school day. Each student can log in an record their team answers. It is not an individual competition. Moodys Math Challenge http://m3challenge.siam.org/ - This day long competition is unique. For just one day, students meet and work together to solve a problem they download in the morning, and submit when they are finished, but within a time limit. Teachers/coaches are not allowed to be present. The Search for Americas Next Top Young Scientist http://www.youngscientistchallenge.com/ home.html - This is an individual competition in which students must create a 1-2 minute video describing a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem related to the way we move, keep ourselves healthy or make a difference. I have not had a student enter this yet but it has great links and resources for teachers.