January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Ten Ways Science Projects Benefit Your Students

Posted: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

by Gary Robinson & Heidi Black

If your school’s academic schedule is like most others, you’re likely in the thick of science fair preparations. We’re guessing you and your students are knee-deep in display boards, circuit boards, plant life, and scale models. Not to mention duct tape and Elmer’s.

You don’t have to go far to see that science projects and fairs have become a cultural touchstone for generations of Americans. 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 someone mistaking refrigerated leftovers for a science experiment.

Although the science fair is a routine part of millions of students’ experience, research into how science projects impact students’ education and workplace preparedness has been relatively scarce. 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 to 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.  Click here to view the complete report.

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.

To help you distill these results into a handy response the next time a beleaguered parent questions about the rationale behind science projects and science fairs, we’ve prepared the following 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!

Gary Robinson is president of the Synopsys Outreach Foundation & Heidi Black is Science Fair Coordinator at East Side Union High School District

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

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CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.