Pender Island science students took the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair in Victoria by storm, bringing home 20 different awards, including first place in each age category.
“We kind of cleaned up,” said Pender science teacher Steve Dunsmuir. “It was shocking to the private schools.”
The fair was held at the University of Victoria on April 7 and 8. Fifteen young scientists from Pender took part in the event, and around 50 people from the island went to Victoria to see the awards and competition.
“Every time a Pender student won there was a very, very loud reaction. I actually heard a couple of parents later say ‘We should move to Pender Island, it must be a good school!’ So that was good to hear.”
Though it may seem like something is in the water on Pender that creates skilled scientists, Dunsmuir said their success is more due to the fact that the community has been interested and involved in the science fair since the beginning.
“The fair kind of drives everything. It gives the kids the chance to share their work instead of just handing everything in,” he said. “Years ago, almost every school would do a science fair and then there would be a district science fair, which would then lead to the regionals. It has kind of fallen out of favour in the last 20 years . . . Not a lot of schools do science fairs anymore. I think that’s why [we are] showing up on the radar a lot more.”
The general placement awards were split into four groups: elementary, intermediate, junior and senior. Maraika McConchie took first place in the elementary division, Meredith Boyd for intermediate, Lauren Ohnona in junior and Quynn Stafford in the senior category. Matt Ohnona received an honourable mention for the intermediate category, and Taeven Lopatecki placed second in the senior division. Students also received 11 other awards either for particular attention to a certain field or through sponsorships.
“Then some people won natural history awards, some won a number of sponsorship awards where the sponsors would give away things like family memberships to the maritime museum, or a year’s membership to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and those kinds of things,” Dunsmuir said. “It was quite a wide range.”
Students were also able to make connections with people working in the various sciences. Lauren Ohnona, who advanced to the national competition last year in Ottawa, has been fielding requests from different groups asking about her research. Another student will be visiting the Friday Harbor Ocean Institute for a tour and has been in contact with a PhD candidate at the University of Washington about his research.
For more on this story, see the April 17, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.