Barrington students headed to Science Olympiad nationals


There is a price to pay for a state championship.

For the Barrington Middle School Science Olympiad team the price was measured in hours or days ... or maybe even months.

That is the amount of time the group of 17 middle school students and their advisor, Razzmatazz cluster teacher Becky Ferry, dedicated to practicing and preparing for the state Science Olympiad competition.

Their work started in the fall. The students and Ms. Ferry met about once a week to refine their skills and practice. In January the group started meeting more frequently and for the last month, the local students spent time each day together.

“They’ve put a lot of work into this,” Ms. Ferry said. “It was a lot of time, but they’re good kids and they have a tremendous work ethic.”

Sixteen of the 17 students on the team participated in the Rhode Island Science Olympiad Competition at Rhode Island College on Sunday, April 13, and returned home to Barrington with the state championship trophy.

Ms. Ferry said she was shocked during the awards ceremony as judges read off the names of winners — time and again, Barrington students grabbed first place finishes. Ryan Brady, Sam Chavez and  Dominic Portelli in “Experimental Design”; Michael Lamontagne and Ellie Wind in “Rocks and Minerals”; Eliot Laidlaw and Annika Kelly in “Metric Mastery.” The names and awards went on and on.

“It blew me away,” Ms. Ferry said.

As state champions, Barrington’s team will travel to Orlando, Fla. for the national competition. It will be the second time in the last four years the local middle school will have represented the state at the Science Olympiad Nationals.

The local team’s standout performance is just the latest example of Barrington public school students achieving at extraordinary levels this year.

At the high school, students on the math team, computer programming team, LifeSmarts team, Future Business Leaders of America club, the Jazz band and more won state titles or placed near the top in challenging regional competitions ... and that is just in the last three months.

It is a similar situation at the middle school, where a robotics team won the state championship and is headed to an international competition, and where more than a dozen students earned significant awards at the recent State Science and Engineering Fair.

More recognition and achievements have also been captured at the district’s elementary schools, including standout marks on this year’s round of Continental Math League meets, and students named to All State Choruses.

The trophies, medals and certificates accompany a strong year for academic achievement in the Barrington classrooms. On the NECAP standardized assessments, Barrington students at each grade level tested performed well above state averages — in some cases more than 30 percentage points better.

That trend carries over to SATs — Scholastic Aptitude Tests. Barrington High School students scored above state and national averages on all portions of the SATs. In math, local students scored more than 100 points higher than the state average and more than 80 points better. The verbal and writing portions of the test yielded similar results.

In addition, most of Barrington’s scores on the SAT subject tests have shown marked improvement over the last five years. With Advanced Placement tests, Barrington students scored 3 or better — the tests are graded on a 1-to-5 scale with 5 being the best — in every subject matter. And in some subjects, such as calculus AB, calculus BC, English, physics C mechanics, computer science, chemistry and U.S. history, the average score is a 4 or better. (In 2013, 274 students at Barrington High School took at least one AP exam.)

The graduation rate at the high school was 95 percent, with 95 percent of the graduating students attending college.

Ms. Ferry said hard work has been the key for her team’s success over the years. She said when she started working with the team nine years ago, it had finished 14th at states. A consistent approach to working hard produced a state championship at the Science Olympiad in 2010 and second place finishes in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

She said this year’s group showed impressive persistence while preparing for the state championship.

“They really persevere. They keep pushing through. The event they struggled the most on we actually finished in first place (at states),” she said.

“I cannot begin to express how proud I am of all of the kids.”

Aiming even higher

Barrington School Committee member Dr. Paula Dominguez acknowledges the performance of local students, but believes the district needs to build more appropriate comparisons, checking Barrington’s scores against the top performing districts in the United States and the rest of the world. Barrington officials will have the chance to do just that when they receive the results from the recent round of an assessment administered to a group of 15-year-old Barrington High School students and their peers from all over the world.

Taking home medals

Teams of Barrington Middle School students received first, second and third place awards at the recent Rhode Island Science Olympiad. Following at the award winners:

First place

Dynamic Planet - Michael Lamontagne & Callan Whitney

Experimental Design - Ryan Brady, Sam Chavez, Dominic Portelli

Heredity - Zoe Collins & Abby Wilhelm

Metric Mastery - Eliot Laidlaw & Annika Kelly

Road Scholar - Katie Wind & Ellie Wind

Rocks & Minerals - Michael Lamontagne & Ellie Wind

Solar System - Eliot Laidlaw & Michael Lamontagne

Sounds of Music - James Winner & Dominic Portelli

Wheeled Vehicle - Eliot Laidlaw & Conor McGartoll

Second place

Anatomy - Annika Kelly & Abby Wilhelm

Can’t Judge A Powder - James Winner & Elizabeth Enos

Crime Busters - Zoe Collins & Abby Wilhelm

Rotor Egg Drop - James Winner & Callan Whitney

Quiz Bowl - Sudiksha Mallick

Third place

Invasive Species - Jaya Gottlieb & Sudiksha Mallick

Can you help the cause?

A trip to Orlando, Fla. for 17 Barrington Middle School students does not come cheap — it’s going to cost a little more than $10,000. The members of the local Science Olympiad team are trying to raise money to off-set the cost of the trip, which will take place May 15. Anyone willing to donate to the trip, can call the Barrington Middle School office at 247-3160.


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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.