HAMILTON - Science can be fun and a very exciting topic at school, but for some students at Hamilton High School science has a deeper meaning.
Members of the Science Olympiad program — which has won a state title five times — are heading to nationals in person after being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When you think of a school you might think of history or English, but some of the kids at Hamilton High School think of math and science — and those that do are a part of the Science Olympiad Program.
It’s a program that allows students to explore other aspects of science then would be explored in the classrooms.
“It’s a really important thing to me since I was in seventh grade, and it shaped me into who I am and what direction I am going to go into after school,” said senior Cole Kimzey.
The program allows early access to science that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Kimzey says what started as a trip to the Museum of the Rockies turned into a life-changing experience.
“When I joined in seventh grade It was because they offered a free trip to the Museum of the Rockies and that’s all I wanted,” Kimzey recalled. “And then I had to do a water quality event and I learned all the insects and macroinvertebrates that are in the water as well as the chemistry that keeps the water healthy. I think that helped shape me into fish and wildlife biology.”
Hamilton High School senior Em Courchesne explained to MTN News why the program is so important to the district — and to her.
“I joined Science Olympiad as a freshman in high school and it’s been a great opportunity to learn about these diverse areas of science that are really specific and something you might get exposure to in your everyday science class.”
Science in schools doesn’t typically go in-depth on topics that would be at a college level, but this program allows for those opportunities.
“It’s taught me a lot. I’ve been able to explore a lot of different fields of science do like meteorology, epidemiology — just a lot of sciences that you don’t get to do in class, and I think it’s interesting to just get to explore a wide variety of science that you otherwise would get exposed to,” said senior Colin Hanley.
Teacher and coach Vanessa Hatflich says that what the students do each year never ceases to amaze her.
“Every year I get absolutely impressed by what they can do through the new skills and new concepts that they can learn. It’s hard to put into words what they can accomplish, it’s amazing.”
The Science Olympiad program has claimed five state champions and has qualified five times for the national event.
"This year actually knowing that we were actually going to be able to go in person. It’s been three years now. We’ve had two online years and one was canceled,” Hanley noted. “So, it’s nice to win state knowing that we have that traveling to nationals. In eighth grade, it was a really fun experience, so I’m looking forward to it again.”
The Science Olympiad gives a bigger meaning to STEM in Montana for the students.
“It opens your eyes to a wider variety of things that you can study in the future,” Hanley said.
The students will be heading to Kansas in May to represent Montana.
“We’re really excited to go to nationals and compete on a national stage, represent Montana and represent Hamilton and see what these kids can do against the best kids in the nation,” Hatflich concluded.