Research Paper on Science Fairs: Are They Really Effective?
Science fairs have long been seen as effective tools to increase students’ engagement during science classes. Educators have stressed that these fairs are effective especially for children who mainly benefit from the so-called hands-on approach (Barton, Tan & O’Neill, 2014). A competitive element, which is an integral part of science fairs, is regarded as another engaging tool. Educators state that students are ready to go an extra mile and this positively affects their academic performance in school and can help them be successful when studying in higher educational establishments. At the same time, there are many critics of science fairs who claim that they have become quite outdated and they often have a negative impact on students’ interest in science education. It is possible to consider benefits and shortcomings of science fairs to understand whether they should be a part of the US education.
First, it is necessary to look into advantages of science fairs. For instance, Barton et al. (2014, p. 259) note that students are proud of being able to participate in a variety of activities and have “freedom to be curious” as well as try to put their ideas into practice. Importantly, students are often willing to learn more on the topic of their interest. Clearly, students do not simply try to memorize rules and laws or learn some facts, but they are able to use certain knowledge during particular experiments. Admittedly, practice is one of the most effective tools of training and, hence, students should have an opportunity to carry out their own researches. Collins, Allen and Schulz (2014) also report about benefits of science fairs and their positive impact on development of science education. The researchers note that the launch of a scientific fair have led to gradual increase in participants and the increase in students participating in science clubs. Clearly, one of the goals of education (to engage students) has been achieved with the help of science fairs.
Apart from engagement and academic benefits, students can also have useful experiences of participating in a competition. In the adulthood, they will have to compete and it is a good idea to make them prepared for victories or possible failures (Barton et al., 2014). Students should understand that the better they get ready with their projects the more chances to win they have. Failure should not be seen as the end of the world and a complete disaster. Educators and parents should encourage students to consider the reasons for their failure and to accept it as a good experience that will lead to victories in the future.
Finally, availability of technology enables more and more students to take part in science fairs. The vast majority of students have the Internet access and, hence, they have an access to extensive information and data on various topics. Multimedia is also quite available as students often have smart phones that include cameras and various useful tools. Modern schools are now better equipped and students may carry out their experiments in school laboratories. This increases the number of potential participants.
However, critics of science fairs note that they have transformed into an unfair competition where students learn nothing. Thus, Tortop (2013) states that the projects students bring to science fairs are often made by their parents who want to see their children with the first prize. More so, many students do not even participate in the process. Some educators report that students are not interested in science fairs and are reluctant to participate in them (Barton et al., 2014). However, it is important to add that these are not common cases. Opponents of science fairs also note that these events are highly competitive, which can negatively affect students (who might be discouraged to participate in any competitions and/or to study sciences).
This brief analysis suggests that positive effects of science fairs outweigh negative ones. The majority of students as well as their parents and educators have favorable attitudes towards science fairs. However, it is also important to make sure that some shortcomings are eliminated. Thus, to make sure that the projects are the result of students’ (not their parents’) work, it is possible to change some elements of science fairs. Students should be able to present their projects (in detail) and answer questions of judges as well as other participants. It is possible to provide videos where the student works on the most difficult parts of the project. Of course, educators and parents should encourage students to reveal their creativity and be active participants of science fairs that can broaden their horizons.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that science fairs are effective educational tools that can significantly enhance science education. Such events help students reveal their creativity, learn something, implement quite extensive research and obtain an important experience (associated with competing). At the same time, there are some issues to be addressed and the procedure can and should be improved. However, science fairs should still be a part of the educational process as they encourage students to explore and promote their ideas.
Barton, A.C., Tan, E., & O’Neill, T. (2014). Science education in urban contexts: New conceptual tools and stories of possibilities. In N.G. Lederman & S.K. Abell (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 246-266). New York, NY: Routledge.
Collins, R., Allen, C., & Schulz, B. (2014, July 29). Opinion: A role for community science clubs. The Scientist. Retrieved from http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40608/title/Opinion--A-Role-for-Community-Science-Clubs/
Tortop, H.S. (2013). Science teachers’ views about the science fair at primary education level. Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry, 4(2), 56-64.