The school I attended for elementary and junior high was small.
We had two classes per grade, with ~20 students in each. Forty to fifty students in each grade.
In each grade there were a range of achievement levels.
Most people simply wanted to get through school. Some hated it. And some of us enjoyed it.
But even if you did enjoy it, you didn’t make a big deal about it. That was the smart social move. You got through your work, did well and kept your head down. You accepted that most other people didn't care much about learning.
But Grade 7 science fair changed my perspective.
The science fair was an annual occurrence in junior high. There were three levels: the school fair, the regional fair, and the national fair.
If you did well at your school, you went to the regional fair. From there, several winners represented the province at the national fair.
The regional winners met each other for a weekend before the national fair.
And then the national fair took place somewhere in Canada over the course of 7-10 days.
In Grade 7, I made it to the national fair in Vancouver.
It was kind of accidental. I wanted to do well, but I didn’t know much about the national fair. It just kind of happened.
But the group of people I would meet changed my perception of learning forever.
For the first time, I met people from all over the province, and the country, who loved science. They loved learning.
It might seem a strange realization, but it wasn’t obvious to me at the time.
There were all kinds of other people out there who loved learning. It was normal.
I’d go on to attend two more national science fairs through junior high and high school.
But the first one was enough.
The first one showed me what it was like to be surrounded by others who loved to learn, to get better, to be curious, and to explore.
I've looked for those people ever since.