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Science Olympiad Team’s Success Has Coach Beaming

The Science Olympiad team at Chandler Woods Charter Academy resembles a football team in terms of depth with 39 students. It’s a testament to the community Stephanie Oostdyk has helped build in her 11 years as a coach and science teacher.

Students from sixth, seventh, and eighth grade cheer each other on and hold hands during the award ceremony, hoping that their teammates will win in competitions such as air trajectory, anatomy, disease detectives, reach for the stars, and roller coaster.

2 students practice setting up their project for event
Joyce and Dave Tchuente practice setting up mirrors for a laser shoot in the Optics event. They are given a spot on the inside of the box and they have to arrange the mirrors to hit a specific spot, then turn the laser on and see how close they are.

“I think that a lot of kids don’t join Science Olympiad necessarily because they want to take anatomy tests or tests on space science. They join because they want to feel part of something, and Science Olympiad is just a really great way for them to do that,” she said. “It’s cool to have so many kids that are really excited to do science not just in science class, but after school and on their weekends.”

While the organization gives students a sense of belonging, it’s a bonus that the team is good. Chandler Woods won its first regional championship on Saturday, March 23, taking first place in eight events to snap Grand Haven’s streak of more than 10 consecutive regional titles. Chandler Woods had a delayed celebration after it initially was awarded second place but found out it took first after a scoring error.

Team playing spoons while waiting for award ceremony
While waiting for the award ceremony to start, the Chandler Woods team has a tradition of playing a game of spoons.

The regional win was the latest title instance of Chandler Woods students’ ability. The team also took first at the Allendale Invitational on Feb. 24 out of 23 teams. Next is the 2024 Michigan Science Olympiad State Tournament on May 4 in Kalamazoo. Last year the team was the state small school division champion, placing 10th overall out of middle schools.

4 students with awards from Allendale Tournament
Mallory Munger, Joyce Tchuente, Dave Tchuente, and Landon Moore show off their awards for wheeled vehicle at the Allendale Tournament.

Oostdyk enjoys teaching middle school science because students are at an age where they start to form their opinions and think for themselves. Science lends itself to that mindset by having them collect data and form hypotheses. It also satisfies their curiosity by getting them to be independent thinkers and problem solvers.

Included in that curiosity is real world application, and Oostdyk is happy to field questions such as “when are we ever going to use this” or “why do we have to learn this” from her young scientists as they apply the scientific method. It’s another example of why Chandler Woods has outperformed the district for 14 years.

Students playing Jenga in between events
Chandler Woods students play a game of Giant Jenga when they're not in events.

“One of the cool things that I can pretty much always say with science is that not only are you learning the content that I’m teaching but you’re learning how you’re learning how to problem solve, you’re learning how to investigate, you’re learning how to think for yourself,” she said. “All of those qualities are things that you will use for the rest of your life. That independent thinking and problem solving is something that I just really strive for in my classroom.”

Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Oostdyk!

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About Chandler Woods Charter Academy
Chandler Woods Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Belmont, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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