Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Fair Science

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Fair Science

Article excerpt

"We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair."

--President Barack Obama, 2011 State of the Union

With this statement, the president emphasized the importance of science education and science research competitions. Science fairs have long been a part of American culture. As coeditor William F. McComas points out in this issue's lead article (p. 34), U.S. science fairs began as early as the 1920s. The first national science fair took place in Philadelphia in 1950, leading to a proliferation of local, state, and national competitions.

The fairs of the 1950s and 1960s were driven by increasing interest in science and science education, fueled by events such as the inauguration of transcontinental TV (1951), the first atmospheric tests of the hydrogen bomb in the Pacific (1952), the opening of the world's first nuclear power station in Russia (1954), the discovery of the structure of DNA (1954), the development of a polio vaccine (1955), and, perhaps most significantly, the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. World-changing science events were in the news, and encouraging student science research experiences suddenly took on a newfound public importance.

Over a half-century later, the national science fair--now the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair--attracts about 6 million participants from around the globe. …

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