As readers of this blog know, I spend a lot of time encouraging science experimentation with my kids. We work on demos, setup experiments, etc. It's a great way to bond with your kids while having fun and teaching critical thinking. In addition to this, I encourage all parents to urge your kids to participate in local (probably your school's) science fairs. Over the last couple of months I've shared the results of my 10 year old's science fair project this year. She choose to test bacterial growth and swapped several sources in our house. She also tested anti-bacterial soaps to determine if they actually stop bacterial growth. Quick answer? They don't. So how did she do in the fair?
She won her school's science fair (woohoo!!!) and advanced to the regional fair. In the elementary division she was in there were over 90 projects for local schools. A very good showing! This division doesn't have a level at the state, so there was no moving on. She received an honorable mention for her work on this project (another woohoo!!!). Best of all, she was very happy with how she did and excited to see the other projects.
At the older age groups, there were far fewer projects. Middle school projects number around 50-60 and the high school division had only 36 projects. I was disappointed in this. There were a fair number of fantastic projects, but I was really hoping to see more kids involved in the competition. My challenge for you, as a parent, or friend/aunt/uncle/brother/sister/etc., is to encourage kids you know to participate in science fairs. Although there's a lot you can do at home, a science fair project takes this to the next level. It requires a greater degree of concentration and effort. The feedback from judges is a great learning experience, even if it's not all positive feedback. Not only that, participating in science fairs allows you to see what others are thinking and doing and gives you information on what you can do to improve your project.
Critical thinking skills are crucial for a successful life and participation in science fairs is a great way to develop and/or hone those skills!