Science Fair Projects: Are They Important for Science Education?

The United States need more science students. And we need new thinking and new programs on how to motivate young students to become scientists. We need more good science fair project programs. Many minority students, who have great potential are not entering the science arena. In order to get a good scientific career in health care, or the biological sciences, you have to pass freshman chemistry at the university level. This is a very difficult course and many wannabe scientists get discouraged and drop out even before they get started. About 65% of the American scientists are white males. During the next forty years, white males will compose about 20% of the population. The problem is that we must produce more qualified nonwhite scientists or we will lose our competitive position in the world.

One of the main reasons that America has been able to progress in the scientific community of the world is that super students from countries like India and China come to the U. S. to study science and have remained here as part of our scientific work force. Many universities report that from one quarter to three quarters of their Ph.D. candidates are overseas students. This pattern has been prevalent for many years and has benefited the U.S. considerably. However this pattern is changing rapidly. Science fair projects alone cannot carry the burden although they do help so much in getting young students interested in the sciences.

Countries all over the world are catching up and sometimes surpassing the U.S. with increased investments in science education. Accordingly the brain drain of the past has changed direction and in many cases we are losing our best students to foreign countries. Science fair projects help to begin a thought process by using the scientific method. The student begins a long journey on learning a new discipline which obviates the importance of attitude, prejudice, cultural biases, and replaces them with a protocol of scientific investigation, experimentation and testing.

The temptations to return to their native lands after being educated in the U.S are many and varied. Foreign students are being lured with large grants for research, new facilities, native cultures and returning to family and familiar surroundings. So often young graduates begin to yearn to return to their roots, to their families and friends and familiar surroundings. And many wish to make a contribution to their native country and help other youngsters to have the opportunities that they have.

The black students were not doing as well as the Asian students and this prompted some research which revealed that the Asian students studied in groups and learned from each other. They motivated each other and set up competitive environments, one pushing the other to new heights. The black students on the other hand studied alone and were more readily distracted from the task at hand, from studying and from achieving. No amount of science fair projects could help this situation.

New programs of learning together and a more communal life style was introduced to African American students and the results were dramatic. Grades went way up, graduation statistics zoomed. Increased dependence on teachers, other mentors, peer groups and team support were introduced and used successfully. Training sessions, after school work, problem solving groups and a host of this type of communications systems were put in place with dramatic results. The students no longer felt alone. Problems seemed smaller when students learned that others were facing the same dilemma. Answers came more easily and more rapidly. Group encouragement and competition and pushing each other became the order of day. Mentors were available for the more difficult problems. Even science fair projects were not enough to win the day. But science fair projects helped a lot of these students to get started.

As soon as the students arrive at the beginning of school year, they get together with a graduate school mentor who will be available to them to discuss studies as well as any personal problems they may have. They are assisted in getting jobs part time like working in research laboratories and similar jobs related to their areas of interest. They get jobs in off season summer programs and become part of an academic support community. The students who heretofore were losers become winners. There never was anything wrong with their ability to do good work, all they needed was encouragement, support, and assistance to get them over the hard times. To think that it all began with a science fair project. Regardless what area of science you like best, whether it be physics, biology or chemistry, or computer sciences, or botany or astronomy, you will find over 400 science fair projects accessible immediately online at http://www.terimore.com.