There is a photo that makes a statement about science projects and science fairs that often circulates on social media.  It always leaves me feeling a bit frustrated.  I can understand its appeal though — who can’t relate to the frustration as a parent about science projects, especially if it takes up family time at home?  Same with science fairs — plenty of possible issues, frustrations, and competition.  And I understand that the popular photo gets a chuckle and is shared for a chuckle.  But yet the full story behind it doesn’t often get linked with it.  This is an article with the photo of the “project” and the reason and creator behind it.

Also in that article there is an appeal and suggestions for change or alternatives.  That is what I find encouraging to read. I also know there are people working to change approaches to project-based learning, inquiry, science, homework practices, and also science fairs.

In a recent exchange on Twitter regarding that photo and its statements, I had replied that it didn’t have to be that way — it just takes leadership and some adjustments.  I have been fortunate in the past to be involved with such efforts in my local area.  For ten years, my husband and I participated in the planning and organizing of our region’s science fair.  The main reason we signed up for the committee was to help lessen the focus on competing and make it more fun and enjoyable for kids.  Our community was very excited about science and scientific discovery and was going to support and sponsor the science fair whether we were involved or not, so.. we committed to the volunteer role.

It was great to work with a number of other educators and community members with the same interest.  We made changes and added activities to the science fair to make it fun and friendly and not just about winning.  There remains the more competitive aspect, but in our local experience, there were students who were certainly up for the challenges of that and they were doing the work, not their parents.  We hoped that we had been a part of making it a science fair for all who participated.

I also saw leadership at the school level with integrating science and a project through other subjects and during school time — and not about sending the project home to complete.  Even as parents, we still have a choice as to how much we involve ourselves in that or not.  It is possible for the science project to be a part of math and language activities, instead of another “add-on” in a teacher’s workload.  Again, it can happen with leadership, support, and vision at the school and district level.  Did “everyone hate the science fair”?  I don’t think so.

One can also do an internet search for “non-competitive science fairs”.  A number of resources and ideas can be found.  I found this rationale and this resource in a quick search.

I welcome other stories or resources on this topic.