Most great science fair projects start with teachers and parents who are enthusiastic about them and who understand “why” science fairs are important.
Informal science education, such as the type of learning a student gets outside of the normal classroom environment by participating in a science fair, provides kids with an in-depth and hands-on look at “real world” science. While it’s possible that participation in a science fair can open doors for students who have already discovered their abilities and passion for science, it can also help students develop an interest in science which could be important to them no matter what career they choose.
Getting students interested in hands-on science is actually very important for another reason — a new national set of science education standards is under development. The Next Generation Science Standards have a targeted release date of fall 2013.
Some of the most important arguments for the Next Generation Science Standards are: 1) American students are falling behind in math and science, performing at levels below students in competitor nations on international tests; the United States currently ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among developed nations, 2) fewer students are pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines, and 3) science is profoundly important to address the problems we’re now facing such as preventing and curing diseases, maintaining supplies of clean water and addressing the energy crisis.
Our collective futures are dependent upon students being interested in science. The purpose of more science education, broadly expressed as ‘STEM literacy’ is to motivate all students (not just the parents and students who are already a fan of science) to fully engage in the very active practices of science and engineering.