NC-ACS helps Science Olympians use the Climate Science Toolkit Nationwide

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Contributed by Kimberly Gervase, Executive Director, North Carolina Science Olympiad, and Melissa Pasquinelli, PhD, 2013 Chair of the North Carolina section of ACS.

Thanks to a generous grant from the ACS and the extensive resources available on the Climate Science toolkit website, students across the country are learning more about climate science.

Science Olympiad is a nationwide STEM competition where students work on teams to become experts in a variety of content areas.  These teams compete locally at regional tournaments, with the top teams advancing to their state and then national competitions.  In 2013, the North Carolina Section of the American Chemical Society (NCACS) was awarded an ACS Climate Science Challenge Grant to fund a collaborative project with the NC Science Olympiad program to provide resources, volunteers, and expertise to develop and run their ‘Green Generation’ middle school and high school event, covering topics on the human impacts on the environment and green chemistry initiatives.

climate science toolkit.jpgGreen Generation’s topics included identifying problems with the human impacts that harm the quality of our environment related to the general principles of ecology, the world’s oceans and estuaries, greenhouse gases, and consequences of pollution and other human-produced threats to the environment.  In the first year, this topic was included in 14 NC Science Olympiad tournaments across the state of North Carolina, reaching more than 1000 students.  In 2015, the topic was adopted at the national level and was run across the country, reaching over 5000 students nationwide.  It will also be an event in the 2016 competition, with a focus on terrestrial environments.

Students, teachers, coaches, and judges used the resources provided on the ACS Climate Change Toolkit Website to explore climate change topics and understand the science behind climate change and possible remediation techniques. Thus, the Climate Science Toolkit is providing a solid foundation for the knowledge development of this new generation of top-notch future scientists and engineers as well as their teachers and Science Olympiad coaches.

One of the NC-ACS volunteer question writers, Dr. Gary K. Smith, notes “I have written questions for middle and high school Science Olympiad participants and was pleased to find the excellent ACS Climate Science Toolkit on the web.  I use its content to produce questions to help the students think more deeply about the realities of climate change.  For example, many people have seen the famous “hockey stick” CO2 plot, but the tool box 14CO2 and 13CO2 data allowed me to ask students whether they really know that the CO2 comes from fossil fuel, rather than wood, burning.”

“We couldn’t be happier with the level of commitment shown by our local ACS chapter to help us write good content that is meaningful to our students,” said Kim Gervase, Executive Director, NC Science Olympiad.  “Members dedicated many hours collaborating to create good content questions and finding research and data that helped students apply their knowledge to the real world.  This partnership has shown how teachers, researchers and industry partners can work together to help more students explore their interests in meaningful ways. By exposing these top-notch students to members of the community who work or have worked in this area, they are able to see what avenues are available to them in the future and are able to make personal connections that can help with throughout their lives.  Engaging these students is critical, as we need them to continue to find solutions to our issues surrounding global warming and pollution."

Dr. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, who launched the ACS Climate Science Initiative while serving as 2012 ACS president, mentioned “Science Olympiad activities are greatly enriched by having participants focus sharply on important scientific and societal challenges and in particular climate change.”  Shakhashiri said, “As a former judge, award presenter, and host to several state and national Science Olympiads, I applaud all efforts to educate students and their communities so meaningful action can be taken for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

Students are excited about the chance to test their knowledge in a competitive environment.  “So many of the students thanked me for creating a good test as they left the National competition,” said Ms. Gervase.  “How many times are you thanked for letting kids take tests on a Saturday?  In Olympiad, it’s every week!”

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