Last year my son, who was in third grade at the time, came home with a sheet of paper from his school that listed three categories for appropriate projects: developing a hypothesis and conducting an experiment to test that theory, inventing something new, or researching "something specific." The guidelines listed "whales" as an example of something specific.
Last year my son, who was in third grade at the time, came home with a sheet of paper from his school that listed three categories for appropriate projects: developing a hypothesis and conducting an experiment to test that theory, inventing something new, or researching "something specific." The guidelines listed "whales" as an example of something specific.Given that my son was 8 years old, the idea that he could, on his own, do any single one of these things seemed ludicrous.Shree Bose, who won Google’s first science fair in 2011 and is now a junior at Harvard, told me that she started noticing signs of parental over-involvement when she was in elementary school: children with beautifully presented boards and sophisticated, completed projects that were clearly the work of adults.Tags: Feminist Research PaperMy Favorite Place Descriptive EssayBaby Thesis About PhysicsLong Term Business PlanningWriting Literary EssaysPersonal Income Statement Form
And the content of the projects shifted accordingly, with dioramas giving way to arguments that made scientific claims.
This is also the point when national fairs sprung into existence, with the launch of the Science Talent Search in 1942, as well as the first country-wide competition in Philadelphia in 1950.
The study found that they hardly increase students’ interest in science or influence their understanding of the scientific method, at least at the middle-school level.
So how did science fairs get to this place—where people pretend that children are "doing science"? was held in 1928 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
The fairs caught on, and they spread to become a national phenomenon by the end of that decade.
But as they did, they shed their agricultural roots and became more about hard science and less about storytelling.And many children don’t have the luxury of parents who have the time to engage with their schoolwork.This dynamic became obvious to me the night before last year’s fair, when I spent over an hour building a model of DNA out of licorice and gummy bears.It may make parents’ lives easier by reducing the amount of effort it takes to look up a project, but it also greatly increases the chance that a kid will do an "experiment" that has been done by possibly thousands of other kids across the nation.Not only do many science fairs include a doubtful amount of science, but according to the results of a 2003 study from Arizona State University that surveyed over 400 middle-school students, they don’t serve to engage kids much, either.It turns out that the path to all this busywork and parental angst was paved with good intentions. It was an outgrowth of the progressive nature-study movement, which held that kids should observe the environment in order to counteract the effects of an increasingly industrialized society.The idea was a noble one: Give overly urbanized kids a chance to get in touch with nature so that they can learn scientific truths and develop an appreciation of that world.Science-fair angst has even made it into children’s literature, with myriad books about stressed-out kids and failed projects.Much of the parental anger seems to stem from the fact that the bulk of science fairs ask children to produce something, in some cases competitively, that is well beyond their abilities.An often unspoken sentiment, which Dave Barry gave voice to in a children’s book about rich kids who buy their science-fair projects, is that there’s something inherently unfair about science fairs.These events often turn out to be a competition among parents—not children.