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Spotlight On: Monte Vista School District's International Science Fair Attendance

Thursday, November 29, 2018  
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Spotlight On: Monte Vista School District's International Science Fair Attendance

Communication Matters Newsletter — September 27, 2018

 In a school district battling high poverty rates, getting kids engaged in academics isn’t an easy feat. But at Monte Vista High School, a decades-long involvement with a science fair is helping the cause.

Since 1982, Monte Vista High has sent at least one student to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. The location changes every few years, but most recently, it was held in Chicago, IL with contestants hailing from Arkansas to Sydney, Australia.


Monte Vista High School


While no student has ever officially won at the ISEF competition, many have made it to the finals—but getting there at all is an impressive achievement. In order to qualify, students have to win both the regional and state science fair competitions.

“For the last 35 years, we’ve won the regional science fair competitions,” said Monte Vista Superintendent Robert Webb.

Many of the students who participate are struggling to meet graduation requirements, and are at risk of having to delay their graduations—but by participating in a special Science Seminar course and getting involved with the science fair, they have the opportunity to collect extra academic requirements, keeping them back on track.

“The purpose is a focus for students, trying to get them engaged in school,” Webb said. “It’s helped a lot of students say, ‘Hey, I can do this. I can be here.’”

While students can participate one year and elect not to the next, some students bring an impressive persistence to the fair. Some work on projects for three years, bringing a project they’ve labored on for most of their high school careers. Others present the same project year after year, in an effort to build on their success and show their progress. Regardless of strategy, needless to say, the science fair certainly engages Monte Vista students enough to produce valuable work they take pride in.

Why is Monte Vista High School able to develop such high-quality scientific triumphs? “The quality of the teachers,” according to Webb.

“This is one of our driving programs because there is so much to that you can do in science, and it’s an opportunity for students to learn to be responsible,” he said. “The teachers do a fantastic job… [they’re] just really passionate about having the kids be successful.”

Students participate in a category of their choice, such as animal sciences or physics. One student last year made it to the fair with a project that attempted to map out the impact of unknown stars on orbits of carious planets in different locations.

“It really is a driving force for them,” Webb said. “They just keep going and keep qualifying.”

While Monte Vista is, of course, proud of the students who make it far in the competition, Webb stresses that winning is not necessarily the goal.

“The reason you want to have a project like this is not because you want to win a competition,” he said. “But because you want to learn to be good students and good learners.”

Click here for a video reel of highlights from the 2018 ISEF competition, featuring Monte Vista students as finalists on stage.

Are you interested in being featured in one of our Spotlight stories? Is your school or district doing something worthy of a shout-out? Be it a district-wide project, a school-specific milestone or even a staff member who goes above and beyond, we want to know! Email CASE Communications Specialist Elisa Wiseman with your story or shout-out for a chance to be featured on our website, and in a future Communication Matters newsletter. Get in touch with her atewiseman@co-case.org.

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