Gary Robinson is the president of Synopsys Outreach Foundation.
Co-written by Heidi Black, Science Fair Coordinator for the East Side Union HS District
For decades, science projects and science fairs have been as much a part of school lore as book reports and dodge ball. Hardly a TV season goes by without at least one scene of a mini-volcano exploding (or worse, imploding), a wayward rocket sending students scrambling, or refrigerated leftovers being mistaken for a science experiment.
Yet despite their status as a cultural touchstone, surprisingly little research has been conducted into how science projects impact students’ education and workplace preparedness. To gain some insight into this question, the nonprofit Synopsys Outreach Foundation teamed with educational research firm WestEd to survey 1,600 students in grades 4-12 on the value of science projects.
Students were asked reflect upon their science project experiences and to rate their perceived skills in several areas—including scientific investigation and analysis, project management and communication before and after completing their projects. In nearly every category, significant numbers of students rated their skills as having improved to “Good” or “Very good” after participating in a science project. To view the complete report, click here.
The survey results are particularly encouraging because they show how science projects can help students hone not only science-related skills such as scientific investigation and analysis, but also critical thinking, communication, collaboration and other, non-science-specific skills critical to success in a wide variety of 21st-century careers.
So, the next time you’re pitching in to help your kid complete, say, a model nuclear reactor, keep in mind our list of the top 10 benefits students reap from pursuing science projects:
- They get to pursue a topic of interest to them.
- They learn to brainstorm, evaluate and choose projects.
- They develop and carry out an experiment plan.
- They apply time and deadline management skills.
- On team projects, they practice cooperating with others in pursuit of a common goal.
- They learn to accurately record and analyze data.
- They practice writing summaries of their findings.
- They create charts, graphics and other visuals to aid in presenting their results.
- They meet the challenge of making an oral presentation and defending their work before science fair judges.
- They get to spend more time with their parents!