Science Fairs: Promoting Positive Attitudes towards Science from Student Participation

By Wilson, Janell D.; Cordry, Sheila et al. | College Student Journal, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Science Fairs: Promoting Positive Attitudes towards Science from Student Participation


Wilson, Janell D., Cordry, Sheila, Unline, Carol, College Student Journal


The purpose of the article is to describe step by step procedures teachers can use to successfully engage their students in the development of science fair projects. The article further explains how the student should prepare their science fair project for science fair competition. It is expected that increasing student participation in science fair project of their interestsi will increase student engagement in the science classroom

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In 1928, the United States held its first student science fair, and since that time, student participation has grown in phenomenal proportions (Bellipanni & Lilly, 1999); however, the question remains, what might be gained by students who participate in science fairs have more positive attitudes towards science?

Science Fair Checklist

Science News (2002) has created a checklist for teachers and students getting involved in science fairs. The checklist includes but is not limited to the following:

* Teachers will help students focus on an appropriate topic and project that interests the student.

* Students research the topic and build on that knowledge with further research.

* Students develop a hypothesis and design a plan for (1) making observations, (2) collecting data, (3) interpreting data and observations,(4) analyzing data and observations, and (5) drawing conclusions.

* Students finalize the project for presentation and create an attractive exhibition board.

* Students practice presentation and prepare to answer judges' questions.

* Students present their project at their school's Science Fair.

According to one study, "most teachers believe that students who adhered to student science projects meet the educational goals of science as recommended in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association (Schneider & Lumpe, 1996, pp. 81-88), But does that necessarily mean that learning is accom-about science increase?

A student's level of self-esteem and belief in his or her ability to learn influences learning, and while promoting the cognitive and intellectual development of students is the primary focus of science fairs, Andrea B alas (1998, updated 2002) contends,

   Science fair projects also foster
   development of a students' sense of
   personal capabilities and qualities.
   Additionally, science fair projects
   help students develop an appreciation
   for nature and the relevance of
   science in daily life, thereby promoting
   positive attitudes toward
   science (p. 1).

It still remains that while much professional literature reports science fair participation by students helps promote positive attitudes about science, there is still have little affirmation that students concur with that belief. However, according to Bruce and Bruce (2000), one of the more common reasons that some students become interested in science is from a personal experience in a science fair participation.

Do the students who participate in science fairs have a more positive attitudes towards science? Yes, science fairs do increase positive attitudes towards science when they participate in science fairs. As maintained by the study reported by Abernathy & Vineyard (2001), "students agree that the science fair is fun and that they learn new things at the science fair ... science projects teach students about the scientific method and promote their interest in science" (pp. 269-276).

Selecting an Appropriate Topic and Project

When a student begins to show interest in developing a science fair project, careful consideration should be given to how the project topic is selected. Student interest is a critical factor for topic selection. The student will be spending a great deal of time over the next several months researching, developing, and presenting the project. …

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