For the second consecutive year, Pleasantville Middle School students have taken top honors at the annual Science Olympiad Lower Hudson Regional competition.
After capturing first place in the region, edging out Scarsdale by one point during the Mar. 4 competition, students earned 15 medals, including six for first-place finishes among the 30-district field.
The 24-student team participated in 20 different science challenges in such categories as anatomy, ecology, herpetology, invasive species, meteorology, optics, rocks and minerals, wind power.
“We’re going to win states this year,” said eighth-grader Abhaya Ravikumar, who won first-place medals in optics and mission possible. “We’ve been doing well every year and we feel like if we put more effort in this year we have a chance to get a medal.”
After finishing seventh in the state competition in 2016, students are looking forward to the state championship in Syracuse on Apr. 7 and 8 where they will compete against 35 schools.
“I’ve been studying since the summer and I feel pretty confident I can do pretty well at states,” said sixth-grader Richik Acharya, who walked away with three individual medals, including one for Reach for the Stars. “We have a weight on our shoulders but I feel we can do pretty well.”
The Science Olympiad team started during the 2012-13 school year by Martha and Chuck Matteo, Pleasantville residents who felt students were missing an opportunity to advance their knowledge in science.
“Other curriculums were getting a lot of attention and it was clear STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) wasn’t a visible priority in the district,” Martha Matteo said. “We had a mission to support a sustainable pipeline of STEM savvy students in collaboration between the community and district.”
Matteo, whose kids competed in the now obsolete Odyssey of the Mind program in the 1980s, said middle school students would be prime candidates for the program. The kids are transitioning during middle school and begin taking responsibility for their own learning, she said.
During its five years, the program has attracted a multitude of community volunteers, including the Matteos, who have served as dedicated coaches. They spend roughly six months preparing students.
Scott Blasdell, a first-year coach, was one of two coaches for the rocks and minerals challenge, where he helped students study the New York State earth science curriculum and learn 95 different rocks and minerals.
“My older son was in Science Olympiad last year and I was really impressed with the program and decided I wanted to be involved,” said Blasdell, who intends on coming back next year.
“I am extremely proud, the kids have a lot of fun and you can see they’ve built a camaraderie and grown over the past few years,” Assistant Principal Donald Marra said. “It’s really nice and the kids love it and the adult volunteers speak volumes to the community and how dedicated they are to the school.”