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Science inspirations

We had another year of the ups and downs of the county science fair, and I can once again say that this is a great experience for kids.

It can be a little hard on the parents.

Here are my pro’s and con’s of the science fair.


A happy participant of the Santa Cruz County Science Fair

  1. This is a whole-child learning experience. Most schools these days don’t give kids projects that require longterm, independent, in-depth work the way a science fair project does.
  2. A successful science fair project teaches planning on a level most kids don’t have to do in their daily lives.
  3. Science fairs nurture a child’s exposure to a topic in science longterm. Even if the project only takes a day, writing the report, making the board, setting up at the fair, and doing the interview all weave together to make this a solid, deep learning experience.
  4. The science fair is real. So many other experiences kids have don’t have real-life consequences and the ability to follow through as an adult would.
  5. Science fairs offer a sense of community to kids who might feel isolated at their schools. If your child is a science-y kid, chances are s/he’s felt out of place at school. The science fair is a place where he is normal, and where he can invite other non-science-y kids in to take part in something he loves.
  6. Science fairs nurture ideas and inspire kids. One of these days I’ll remember to take notes about all the cool ideas my kids come up with while cruising the aisles looking at everyone else’s work.
  7. Science fairs place a value on intellectual activity, which helps cancel out a popular culture that places little value on deep thought and hard work.
  8. Science fair projects are largely parent-led activities done at home, which offers a great bonding experience for parent and child.


  1. This experience is a whole-child stress test. Beware that you are signing up for leading a child through what may be his own personal hell.
  2. You may find out that your child’s planning abilities are, let’s say, about as developed as her ability to remember to pick up her dirty socks. Last-minute, late-night board glue-ings are a common topic of conversation between parents standing outside during judging.
  3. Science fairs take a huge commitment from child and parent. Most kids love doing experiments, but actually taking the notes, writing the report, and getting the board done are difficult to manage. Most parents can resist the temptation to just finish the project themselves, but some (clearly, judging from what appears at the fair) just can’t stand it.
  4. If you have more than one participant, you are likely to find out just how real the science fair is. Last year, one of my children got an award and the other didn’t. This year, ditto. The only good outcome is that it’s a different child this year! This is a real exercise in filial love.
  5. If you love science, some of the work you’ll see at the science fair might give you pause. The scientific method is not necessarily understood by a certain number of the participants, and you have to remind yourself that this is a learning experience!
  6. If your child’s project goes badly, you might find her deflated rather than pumped up. Get ready to do some pumping.
  7. Your child may, in fact, decide that listening to Justin Bieber is more fulfilling than the science fair.
  8. Science fair projects are largely parent-led activities done at home, which offers a great chance for parent and child to tear each other’s hair out and issue curses while swearing never, ever to enter the science fair again.

Posted in Education.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. What’s up with the science fair? – Avant Parenting linked to this post on March 15, 2012

    […] were kids, while our kids enter it every year. [See: A few words about scientists and inventors… Science inspirations… Winning and losing… Science Fair… And I'm sure I've written more but that's what you're […]

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