A group of middle school students is hovering around trays of slimy, foot-long squid in the high school science room. They’ve been meeting here every Wednesday after school. Today, in white, paper aprons, they’re learning about squid anatomy from instructor, Joni Johnson.
The students take the squid in their hands and hold it head up letting the tentacles fall around the side. The insides of an animal aren’t unknown to many of the students. They’ve grown up cleaning fish and game. But that doesn’t mean there’s no squeamishness in the group. Most of the kids are sixth graders.
Petersburg has long had a high school science club known as the NOSB team which stands for National Ocean Science Bowl team. This spring, a program for middle school students began.
“You know part of it’s just purely selfish,” said Sunny Rice, who instructs the group with Johnson. “We want to build interest. It’s like a feeder program for our high school.”
Rice has been coaching the high school team along with Johnson for about seven years. But hanging out in the science room, it doesn’t take long to realize that it’s more than just recruiting. There’s a real excitement floating around with Rice and Johnson and the new students.
The middle school science program begins on the heels of the high school’s National Ocean Science Bowl season. The finale for the high schoolers is a trip to the state-wide competition in Seward. A main component of that meet is the science bowl trivia game. Like jeopardy, students hit buzzers to answer questions. It’s something that the coaches want to practice with the middle school students every week.
“So they need to know the answer to the question but they also need to be able to think really fast about the answer to that question because it’s all about timing and then they need to be able to buzz really quickly,” Rice said. “You know, there are a lot of skills that actually go into the simple act of participating in the buzzer round so we can start getting them those skills now.”
Rice says it’s a learning process. They’ll be accumulating science knowledge as they go.
“We’ll teach them something one week and then we’ll build questions about that,” Rice said.
Undoubtedly, facts about squid will be asked in the coming weeks.