Saturday, March 2, 2013

What Was The Greatest Moment of Your Life?

In my imagination, I could see someone, doing a job that he obviously hates, working as a (fill in hated occupation here; I don't want to insult anyone's choices), talking about the greatest moment of his life. It was senior year of high school, and his football team was down by 4 with seconds left on the clock. The regional championship was on the line. He was headed down the sidelines when the quarterback's throw slipped and bobbled through the hands of the defender, and somehow he caught the ball, stayed in bounds, and made it into the end zone, saving the day. He would remember that day forever, the greatest moment of his life.

And then what? Sports competition is great, and for some it is even fun, but for most it ends when high school does. Some go on in college, but it isn't all that often that sports competition leads to a satisfying career.

I was watching and participating in a different kind of competition today. It was a bit less noisy (except for the awards ceremony), but there was every bit as much intensity and emotion as any football game. And winners and losers alike could look forward to continuing doing what they love for the rest of their lives. There is no glowing moment of victory followed by a lifetime of wistful memories. These kids could go on to bigger and better discoveries throughout their careers. Lives full of possibilities.

The Science Olympiad is a competition for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers that challenges students in physics, chemistry, engineering, geology, and biology. It's the kind of competition that brings out the creativity and intuition in a kid. I've been judging events for our local olympiad for 24 years now, and I never get tired of seeing the excitement and intensity with these young adults. I know for a fact that many of them continue on to careers in science, because quite a few of them show up in my geology classes a few years later, and they talk about how the olympiad (and other science competitions) inspired them.

If you are a science educator, and your district or region doesn't have an olympiad, organize one! If they do and your school doesn't compete, organize a team. You can always start small. It will mean a lot to your students.

I was a bit hard on sports there at the beginning, and frankly, one of the greatest moments of my life did in fact involve a winning moment in track and field back in high school. And one of the finest earth science educators I know is also a coach, and as such is an inspiration to his students in kinesthetic intelligence as well as all of the intelligences that are utilized in the sciences (intrapersonal, interpersonal, logical, mathematical, spatial and naturalist). But I can never regret the decisions in my life that led to a career in the sciences.
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