Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century
The 2013 U46 Science Fair
The elation felt by participants at a finale, whether it is a sporting event or a science fair, is ultimately driven by the sheer pleasure of the accomplishment of tasks of no simple means. This is why School District U46 moves heaven and earth each year to marshal the effort needed to provide science fair opportunities for students. This is the essence of what science education is all about. It is about making the case for students to take on challenges, tax their learned skills and abilities and present evidence-based arguments that support their scientific discoveries.
If science education is to move forward in the 21st century it has to place these types of project-based challenges in front of our students to learn. The genius of the learning process comes from inquiry-based scientific investigations that utilize the knowledge and understanding brought into the classroom by students.
The Next Generation Science Standards envisions science education in America to be thought of as a process of doing science to achieve understanding and not as the attainment of absolute knowledge. Student achievement is measured in the movement from conceptual understanding to conceptual understanding and this demands performance. It requires students to implement this understanding by solving problems and posing new questions. Doing science leads to student performance outcomes that are real and aligned with the learning of fundamental concepts in science.
Participation in the district science fair is one avenue that educators in School District U46 are able to connect with project-based science providing the means to help motivate students to learn science. It is a hook that can engage students in the process of doing science. This engagement is outside the textbook, outside the classroom and placed into the homes and within the community.
Science Fairs are STEM educational initiatives that become incubators for inspiring young minds. It provides a forum by which student achievement is applauded and their effort and commitment to excellence is recognized. The science fair experience provides the opportunity for students to work independently for their own education using the abilities and skills they have mastered over many years of schooling.