Ditch the Science Fair Requisite
By Adam Bihi, Managing Editor
It’s a common rite of passage for teenagers to agonize over months of preparation, research, and testing experiments repeatedly until they get the results they need. This brutal journey is called the Fairfax County Public Schools Science and Engineering Fair.
Students in Honors classes ranging from Biology to Physics are required to participate and those who go above and beyond with their projects may qualify for the regional science fair, an event where FCPS students compete against each other.
While some argue that this fosters creativity and a love for science, I believe that those who really love science will take it upon themselves to pursue a career in the numerous fields of science. And, in fact, some students choose to take regular science over Honors science simply to avoid the Science Fair.
Science Fair experiments are assigned as long-term projects with students required to write an analysis and conclusion. Those students who don’t take it seriously, however, may attempt to do it all the night before the deadline. This isn’t helping students learn anything other than how to coast by and do the bare minimum just to get a judge to check a box.
Another big issue is that students with amazing concepts for projects have had them be rejected as a result of safety reasons and not getting full teacher, IRB, or SRC approval. IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval is required for projects that have human participants, while SRC (Science Research Committee) approval is required for projects that involve vertebrae animals or microbiology.
Students taking an honors science class are already pushing themselves to excel in higher level science. They shouldn’t have to doubt their previous academic successes and ponder having a future in science if their project is poorly received. Science fairs are not a good way to measure academic achievement or an interest in science.