Going for Gold

Different Kids, Same Mission for Livsey Science Olympiad Team

Livsey Science Olympiad, Simone Kelly.Simone Kelly is a busy woman. In addition to leading the gifted program at Livsey Elementary School, she also moonlights as the school’s theatre teacher. And the Academic Bowl advisor. And the Science Olympiad coordinator. 

“Sometimes with Ms. Kelly I have to tell her ‘no’ to certain things,” explains Livsey Principal Shawna Pickett. “We were looking for someone to help us with 4H and she was trying to volunteer, but she does theatre and she does [so much], so we have to rein her back sometimes.”

This month, Kelly will be consumed just as she has been for each of the past 10 years; leading her students into battle at the DeKalb County Science Olympiad. Kelly’s teams have advanced to the state Science Olympiad competition in each of the past six years and she’s aiming to make it seven in a row in 2020.

“Our goal at this point is to do well enough at county to again go to state,” Kelly says before modestly adding, “we’re going to try.”

While the Science Olympiad competition is fierce, it’s also fun for the students. Kids from more than 40 schools across DeKalb County come together each year to put their scientific caps on, applying critical thinking to a variety of competitions.

“Kids sometimes don’t get a chance to excel in certain things in a classroom setting,” Kelly explains, “but in a competition, you see them just light up at the opportunity to do that. Even when they don’t do well, they start thinking, ‘How can I do this better?’ That’s the kind of thinking we want them to have.”

There are a handful of schools, like Livsey, that have a long history in the competition and enter as perennial favorites. But there are also a number of new schools getting their students involved. Last year, Tucker’s Idlewood Elementary was one of those new kids on the block. They surpassed expectations by taking first place in their division in two events and third place in another.

“My daughter slept with her medal for a week,” explained Roger Carter, a parent who helped organize Idlewood’s first Science Olympiad entry.

Carter was not unique in his role, as parents and family members really drive schools’ abilities to field Science Olympiad teams. At Livsey, Ms. Kelly got her students’ families involved from the very start.

“I asked parents to be involved in the whole process,” she recalls. “They have to coach alongside with me, and I help navigate scheduling, getting the resources, begging for resources. It’s worked so well that we’ve gone to state and when parents come in I kind of preface it with, ‘Look, we’ve gone to state this many times, so we want to keep that momentum as we continue.’”

If that momentum continues and Kelly achieves her goal of a seventh straight trip to the state competition, it won’t be without sacrifice. States take place at Kennesaw State University each May on the exact same day at the exact same time as a beloved Tucker event.

“I have never been to Tucker Day,” Kelly admits. By the same token, as long as she’s heading up the Science Olympiad team, Kelly is glad to hold her own Tucker Day celebration…in Kennesaw.


We asked students at Livsey about some of their favorite events at the Science Olympiad. Here’s what they said:

Water Rockets
Students design a rocket out of a two-liter bottle that is propelled through the air by water pressure. With a parachute attached to the nose of the rocket, they are judged on how long it stays in the air.

Egg Drop
Only using straws and tape, students are charged with building a receptacle to hold an egg as it is dropped from nine feet in the air. Successful teams complete the task with their egg intact.

Paddle Boats
Leading up to the competition day, students build a paddleboat out of popsicle sticks, rubber bands and glue. The goal is to see whose paddleboat can go the furthest in the shortest amount of time.

Tucker Social

Loading social feed...