Yearning to Learn – for Science!

Valpo has a lot of great schools with a wide variety of academically and athletically inclined students within them. Case in point: Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Recently, their Science Olympiad Team cleaned up at the State Competition and they will be heading to Nebraska in May for the National Competition.

This groups of young, bright minds is led by dedicated parents and coaches. One coach, Mark McMurtrey is quite invested in the group as two of his three sons are on the team and his wife is also a coach. McMurtrey coaches the kids on bio-statistics and epidemiology. This is a perfect fit as he is a family doctor with Community Healthcare System in Valparaiso.

“My role is to help facilitate and help them learn what they need to. I go in twice a week and work with the kids about the principals that they need to learn,” McMurtrey said. “We go through old test and quizzes and help them learn what they need to learn. Also take clippings from magazines for current events to keep things relevant.”

McMurtrey’s wife is in charge of the Write It, Do It activity. It’s writing and communication in action as a team of two kids work together to build something; one who writes instructions, and the other who follows said instructions to build the object.

Having parents and volunteers coach the kids is a great way to bond and bring the community together for a common goal. This group of kids must work together for months on end so they form bonds with each other while learning and discovering new things.

“One of the really cool things is this is a team of 16 kids that stay together for the whole season. This is a nice thing that the coaches set up so the kids have to work together. They are very supportive of each other and they work really well together,” McMurtrey said.

And as the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” “I’m a really small part of this whole thing,” McMurtrey said. “There are lots of other parent coaches and community coaches. Two incredible coaches that deserve a lot of credit are Rich Bender and Carol Haller. Almost their entire budget comes from the community. Companies and people donate and we appreciate all the help.”

Photo credit: Andy Lavalley