KAYSVILLE -- Straws, skewers, marshmallows, pipe cleaners and paper cups lay scattered around Knowlton Elementary School fourth-graders Kate McMaster and Zackery Mansfield as they attempted to quickly build the tallest freestanding tower they could.
"This isn't going to work. Put a marshmallow on top," said Kate.
"Just trust me," said Zackery.
This was just one event in a flurry of activity on the Davis High School gym floor Wednesday morning during the Davis School District's first Elementary Science and Math Olympiad.
"It's an event where students can practice and put to application some of the things they have learned in science and engineering, as well their math," said Rita Stevenson, the district's elementary science supervisor.
In another area, blue paper planes soared through the air as students tested their creations for the floating glider competition.
"More weight in the front for it to fly well," said Eagle Bay Elementary sixth-grader Coulter Blanchard. "This one has good weight. In the back, I have little lifters. I am a real perfectionist. I need everything straight."
Coulter said he really likes science and the experience of being at the Olympiad.
"Not only is it challenging, but also you are with your friends for support and friendly competition. It's a great event. They shouldn't stop it," he said.
Educators in the district decided to create this event as a way to get younger students excited about math and science.
"Davis district is very proactive in the senior science Olympiad," said Stevenson. "In fact, Fairfield Junior High and Davis High School both took first place in the state science Olympiad this year. We want more of our students to think about majoring in science, math or engineering. We know by the time a student reaches middle school if they are not excited about science it is very rare for them to go into science as a vocation."
The excitement was evident from the cheers and applause from the stands as the winners were announced in the different events.
"They are loving being here," said Mountain View Elementary School teacher Lynette Wiggins. "The tension is high. The enthusiasm is high. They are cheering for their teammates. I think it has built a lot of camaraderie between grade levels."
More than 300 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from 28 elementary schools competed in six different math, science and engineering events.
"It's so varied that they all have skills in different areas. It offers different kids opportunities," said Knowlton Elementary fourth-grade teacher Julie Potter. "The ones that love it don't even know they are learning. This makes them want to figure things out more, which is basically what you want them to do as a teacher. I love it. I am glad they got the opportunity to do it."
The math events included cup stacking and two card games, which required the students to quickly figure out equations. Although it wasn't as hands-on, the students were still enthusiastic, with arms eagerly waving into the air as new problems were presented.
"This makes learning your division, multiplication and addition facts a lot more fun and gives them a reason for learning them, not just to pass a test," said Wiggins. "It stimulates a higher level of thinking skills in kids. They have to use a part of their brain they don't use everyday."
In another engineering event, students had to make a barge out of aluminum foil. Not only did the small boat have to float marbles, the students also had to estimate how many marbles would fit.
"We did pretty good," said Holbrook Elementary fifth-grader Tristan Knight as his team's marbles were being counted. "We filled up a lot. We guessed 250. We wanted to make it really wide. When it is wide it can fit more in there. This is like the Olympics but a kids' version, and you can do all this other cool stuff. It's like a brainiac thing. It's good for your brain, exercises your brain."
Tristan did a fist pump as he and his partner, Keith Quist won their round.
"I've never won a medal before," Tristan said.
Stevenson said the Olympiad was a success and she hopes to make it an annual event with all of the elementary schools participating.
"This is the culminating event of what has been going on in the schools all year," she said. "This is just icing on the cake."