Another sad science fair story

Here’s yet another story lamenting the decline in science fair participation. It’s good to see that some schools actually offer science project classes that kids apparently enjoy. But for the rest … gotta prepare for the test, ya know!

Science fairs used to be big deals — competitions that exercised critical-thinking, research and public speaking.

But participation in county science fairs has dropped dramatically among Florida high-school students — ironically, at the same time the state has ordered teachers to focus more intensely on biology, chemistry and other sciences.

The new science portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, in fact, is helping fuel the trend because teachers and students are so occupied with the FCAT, they don’t spend as much time and effort on science fairs, many educators say.

In Lake, only five qualified for the fair there. Last year, 20 did, said Lake’s science specialist, Claudia Rowe. She said changes in the rules for science projects in recent years have discouraged students, too. The main complaint: paperwork.

“Instead of it being a fun thing to learn, it’s become more of a paperwork thing and jumping through hoops,” Rowe said.

Experts across the country said no studies exist and no one collects data for science-fair participation.

But Anne Holbrook, a University of Maryland professor who teaches educators how to teach science, said based on many anecdotes, it appears to be a national problem. She thinks the problem is the national push for tests such as the FCAT. She said schools need to do a better job integrating science into other classes.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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