Science Olympiad

The Scrambler Event at O'Neal's first Invitational tournament.

O’Neal’s varsity Science Olympiad team will be participating in the state competition this weekend. The tournament will take place via the satellite method – where the team can work together at their school and compete with the other teams virtually. Though O’Neal’s middle school has made multiple team and individual state appearances, this marks the first time the entire varsity team, comprised of students in the Upper School, has qualified for state competition.

We wish them the best this weekend!

The Beginning

O’Neal’s present-day Science Olympiad participation began when Middle School Science Teacher Boyd Grayson joined O’Neal in 2013. With no time to spare, he readied his first O’Neal middle school team for regional competition in the spring of 2014. The inaugural team placed 2nd among 27 other middle schools and qualified for state competition.

Grayson came to O’Neal from Greenhill School in Dallas where he built a very successful and competitive Science Olympiad program. He also introduced hundreds of science educators in the North Texas area to Science Olympiad through workshops and professional development seminars. Grayson has also served as a member of the National Science Olympiad Earth Science Rules Committee.

With one year’s experience under their belt, the O’Neal Middle School Science Olympiad Team won first place in regional competition in 2015. Also in 2015, the Falcons brought along with them a team consisting of students from our sister school in France – Collège St. Michel in Bourgoin-Jallieu – as part of a science/foreign language collaboration.

The Invitationals

At this point, it was time for Grayson to further his plan for Science Olympiad at O’Neal and host an invitational tournament on campus. Its purpose was to provide practice for schools before the regional and state tournaments in the late winter and spring. The inaugural invitational was held in December 2015 where 13 schools with 16 teams from across the state participated.

Science Olympiad events are STEM-related activities ranging from competing with pre-built items, like the Elastic Launched Glider, Bridge Building, and Bottle Rockets, to interactive activities using provided materials, like Experimental Design and Science Crime Busters, to tests of scientific knowledge like Meteorology, Fossils, and Anatomy. Over two hundred individual event medals and four team trophies were awarded at this invitational and it was deemed the only 25 events, Division B Science Olympiad Invitational Tournament in the United States.

O’Neal hosted invitational tournaments for five years.

Regional and State Tournaments Continue

In 2016, O’Neal was able to move to Fayetteville for the regional tournament due to spring break conflicts with the tournament in Laurinburg. With larger teams and stiffer competition, the Falcons still pulled through placing second in the middle school competition. The Upper School placed a respectable ninth place out of 25 teams. Continuing to stay in the top 3 for regional competition at the Fayetteville location through 2018, in 2019, the middle school team placed fourth in regional competition but celebrated its seventh consecutive state appearance with all team members winning medals.

Presence in the Lower School

Prior to 2013, Science Olympiad was not a focus at O’Neal; however, at the lower school level in the mid to late 90’s, there was a Science Olympiad competition of some form where fourth-grade students represented O’Neal on a national level.

In a blog entry from Grayson in 2018 – “Science Olympiad is the ultimate in ‘hands-on science’ learning…Not only does Science Olympiad enhance the science learning experience, it also teaches ‘real life’ values and skills…It is easy to say ‘Science Olympiad is only for the science nerds or the science egg heads of the school.’ But in reality, it is designed for anyone who has a willingness to improve many of the skills and values that are important to us all. Skills and values that are used every day in all walks of life.”

Falcons Fly to 50

O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.

Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388

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