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Leech Elementary students ready to show science knowledge

Emily Balser
| Sunday, March 12, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Leechburg Elementary School sixth-grader Christine Guo checks the stability of her weighted structure in preparation for a Science Olympiad competition at California University of Pennsylvania to take place at the end of March. Photographed on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
Erica Dietz | For the Tribune-Review
Leechburg Elementary School sixth-grader Christine Guo checks the stability of her weighted structure in preparation for a Science Olympiad competition at California University of Pennsylvania to take place at the end of March. Photographed on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
Leechburg Elementary School sixth-grade science teacher Kirk Wilson assists with a science project as fourth-grader Nicholas Sherbondy and sixth-grader Kaylee Morgan build their project in preparation for a Science Olympiad competition at California University of Pennsylvania to take place at the end of March. Photographed on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
Erica Dietz | For the Tribune-Review
Leechburg Elementary School sixth-grade science teacher Kirk Wilson assists with a science project as fourth-grader Nicholas Sherbondy and sixth-grader Kaylee Morgan build their project in preparation for a Science Olympiad competition at California University of Pennsylvania to take place at the end of March. Photographed on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
David Leech Elementary School students work together to prepare their rocket for a Science Olympiad competition at California University of Pennsylvania taking place at the end of March. Photographed on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (clockwise from top) Sixth-graders Katie Huth and Eli Sherbondy, and fifth-grader Brandin Gilmore.
Erica Dietz | For the Tribune-Review
David Leech Elementary School students work together to prepare their rocket for a Science Olympiad competition at California University of Pennsylvania taking place at the end of March. Photographed on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (clockwise from top) Sixth-graders Katie Huth and Eli Sherbondy, and fifth-grader Brandin Gilmore.

A group of David Leech Elementary students are preparing to go to the Science Olympiad competition this month at California University of Pennsylvania.

Teachers Kirk Wilson, Tanya Sherbondy and Nancy Burger have been preparing a group of 15 students for the “academic track meet” March 22 that will test their knowledge in 23 areas of science.

The Leechburg Area students will join students from 32 other school districts, among them Burrell, Deer Lakes and Plum in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

“It's been very exciting and rewarding in a lot of ways,” Wilson said.

The students have been meeting every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday since January to practice and make the projects for the competition.

They're learning lessons in everything from anatomy and physiology to geology.

“It's been a tremendous amount of work,” Wilson said. “By the time we compete in March, most of the students will have put in an extra 100 hours.”

Part of the competition is being tested on paper and part of it is more hands on with creating projects, like a small moving vehicle without a motor.

“Some areas are a little bit easier than others,” Wilson said. “They're getting knowledge that they've never had before.”

The school received a grant of nearly $900 from the Science Olympiad program to help with competition expenses. The money has paid for project materials.

Wilson said they've had to buy a lot of materials because they have had some trial and error with projects.

“With science, you have a lot of failures before you have success,” he said.

Principal Dave Keibler said this is the first year the school has sent students to the Science Olympiad.

“Our focus is just to provide new opportunities to kids,” Keibler said.

Keibler said the competition will teach the students lessons that aren't taught in the classroom. He and the teachers hope this year's participation will get other students interested.

The students will compete against 19 other teams in the middle school division.

“Ultimately, our goal is to let them learn the competitive nature out there,” he said. “It's really about the experience and opportunity to network with other kids.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680 or emilybalser@tribweb.com.

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