Everything Bremerton: Students get 'A,' District gets 'D'

Did you know that Bremerton is the host city for the annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair? Did you know WSSEF is wide open to all public, private, online and home schooled students in grades one to 12 in the state of Washington? Did you know that $1,000,000 in prizes and scholarships are awarded through this fair? Did you know that many school Parent Teacher Associations and the City of Bremerton have scholarship funds set up to pay for each local student's $15 entry fee?

You did not know any of this? Well, neither did I. Our collective lack of knowledge on this is a really big problem because I was amazed with this event, how it was run, how many people attended and how long it has been happening in Bremerton.

This year there were 540 projects entered from 17 different counties around the state that came from  114 schools and 150 participants were from Kitsap County. In comparison, King County had 129 entrants.

My own son, Nick, is a 5th grade student at West Hills STEM Academy. For those of you who don’t know, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. This is the very first year Nick has participated at the state level in a science fair competition. West Hills did not host a school science fair last year.

Thanks to the excellent group of STEM educators at West Hills this year, a requirement for individual student science fair project submissions at the school level for all 5th graders was implemented. The West Hills Science Fair was held in February. Having viewed most of the entries, many of which were excellent, I was dumbfounded to learn only four students from West Hills participated at the State Science Fair this year. A local STEM school that focuses on science and engineering and prides itself on being the educational pioneer in the world of elementary STEM could only inspire four participants? Why? Where is the disconnect?

The WSSEF is an established event, now its 56th year as a non profit organization, with an impressive list of individual, corporate and public agency sponsors that help create free opportunities for local students to spend nearly nothing to attend. The fair also provides each participant with the opportunity for major scholarship awards, special cash prizes, unique access opportunities and the close individual attention from a pool of sponsors that are very interested in scouting such talented up-and-comers for the very careers they are already showing an early passion for.

Why are local school districts not promoting this event more than just through a flimsy handout or a brief email? Is it because the academic and financial awards benefit the students directly and not the district?Aren’t schools educating our children with the intent that these students then take what they have learned and apply it in real world applications for the rest of their lives? Why then is such a local, inexpensive, practical application opportunity being so ignored and squandered by local educational leaders?

Thank you to the City of Bremerton for your continued support and contribution. Thank you to the 300 volunteers and judges. Big congratulations to the first-place fair winners from Naval Avenue, Crownhill, View Ridge and Kitsap Lake. Congratulations also to the special award winners from these schools and from West Hills STEM Academy. You kids did an incredible job representing your school, your district and your community. We are all very proud of you.

Bremerton School District leadership, you get a 'D' for dropping the ball, yet again. As the host district, you should be mightily embarrassed by your lack of effort. Your individual school educators are willing to run with this and increase participation going into next year. Give them the tools and the early, frequent support they need to openly encourage participation in events that will best serve our kids in the world of science and engineering and not just where it serves the district's bottom line.


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