I hate science fair

I am a science teacher.

I hate science fair.

Why?

Three main reasons: they only happen once a year, they don’t happen during class time (usually), and only the “A students” and the Science Club kids do it.

Credit: Rich Bower, Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/3266847462/

Credit: Rich Bower, Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/3266847462/

Only once a year

Why do kids only get this rich student-centered inquiry-based experience once a year?  Why aren’t they doing genuine inquiry research and experimentation repeatedly throughout the year?  Why aren’t they presenting their work to an audience outside the classroom more than once a year?  The “science fair” experience (on a slightly smaller scale) could be repeated multiple times throughout the year.  That is how students really learn the process of science!

Not during class time

Why not?  Why do kids have to do this on their own time?  Why not do this type of work during class?  I know some science teachers in some schools do give class time for science fair.  Some even require all students in certain science classes to participate.  My point is this – why does class time have to be so teacher centered and the students only get to do “science fair” type work as “enrichment?”  Let’s enrich the experience for students IN OUR SCIENCE CLASSES!

Only the “A students” and the Science Club kids do it

That’s because it’s almost always an optional enrichment activity for those students who already love science (or whose parents make them do it).  Why not give all kids the opportunity to generate a question that they are interested in and mentor them through the pursuit of an answer?  All kids can do science!

What is good about the science fair concept:

  • Having students do “real science” in an open-ended inquiry format
  • Connecting students to mentors in the science field, whether they are from industry or academia
  • Engagement is enhanced by allowing students to choose the focus of their project
  • Having students present to an audience outside the classroom is a very good thing

My suggestion is that we give students the opportunity to do this type of work regularly throughout the year.  Maybe the teacher introduces the general topic or guiding question, maybe not.  From there the students generate their own questions, do research, design and carry out experiments, and summarize and present their results.  Bring in parents, other teachers, community members, other students, etc. for the students to present to.  Have them present their results in any number of formats: posters, electronic presentations (PowerPoint, Prezi, SlideRocket, movies, etc.).  Rinse and repeat.

Oh, and have fun!