Even though the Obama Administration is rooting for more involvement in math and science, according to the New York Times article “It may be a Sputnik moment, but science fairs are lagging,” teachers believe the Obama administration’s focus on raising scores in reading and math is having adverse effects on creative, independent exploration, like science fairs. Recently, many science fairs have been on the verge of folding because of low sponsorship and declining student involvement. On the middle school level, science fairs are still for the most part required of students but by the time those students hit high school there might not be a science fair to attend. Director at Society for Science & the Public, Michele Glidden said, “Science fairs develop skills that reach down to everybody’s lives, whether you want to be a scientist or not. The point is to breed science-minded citizens.”
As the science fair and math competition season begins, however, we are still seeing innovative and creative events taking place outside of the classroom. Below are some events we’re following this season. If you have more to share, please join the conversation in the box below.
- The Western Nevada Science and Engineering Fair: The Science Fair found that over 20,000 students participated in their local fairs to be able to attend this impressive regional fair. Their goal along with the Lemelson Young Inventors Challenge (LYIC) competitions “is to promote scientific thinking, creativity, and innovation. The competitions are an opportunity for students to exhibit their creative and critical thinking abilities and compete for recognition.”
- Cedar Point and KNEX Great Thrill Ride Build Off: This competition calls for classes across the country to create an original amusement park ride that will be judged by KNEX designers and Cedar Point ride engineers. Five classes will win the chance to display their invention at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio. In May, Cedar Point is also hosting Math and Science Week where K-12 students learn anything from how weather works to the science behind their favorite thrill rides.
- MATHCOUNTS: MATHCOUNTS is an enrichment program for 6-8 grade students. This competition program calls itself “the perfect atmosphere for students to push themselves and achieve more in mathematics.” MathCounts works to build a foundation for student success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic careers. “Consisting of fun and creative problems that promote critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, the MATHCOUNTS competitions have written and oral rounds, as well as individual and team components.”
- Math Olympiads: A program that is split into two grade groups, 4-6 and 6-8, with the goals to stimulate enthusiasm for math, introduce Mathematical concepts, strengthen mathematical intuition, and much more. No travel is involved. Students meet in their school’s math club weekly and compete once a month for five consecutive months.
No matter how your school makes a difference with math, science, technology and critical and creative thinking, it is a key priority for all of us. We hope some of these ideas will give you models for what is possible at your school. If you are already a pioneer in these areas, please share with us and you can influence teachers around the world.