Friday, Oct. 3 | 3-3:50 p.m. | Hagen 325
By Isaac Skalsky and Richard Lahti, MSUM

Physics & Astronomy Seminar Series presents: “Is Science Fair Participation Related to Science MCAIII Scores for Minnesota Public School Students?”

Science Fair projects have a long history in science education, although their portrayal in popular culture leads to significant misconceptions about their nature and purpose in science education. Science Fair participation is declining, both locally (i.e. the Western Regional Science Fair, held at MSUM) and nationally, at a time when considerable attention is being focused on STEM education, and Next Generation Science Standard emphasizing NOS (nature of science) are being adopted. One of the primary reasons cited for this decline is a focus on preparation for high stakes tests that have become more common under No Child Left Behind and are perceived to focus on science content (facts about biology, earth science, physics and chemistry). This study compares the MCAIII science scores of districts who participated in regional science fairs in Minnesota, with their peers who did not, in an attempt to determine if science fair participation 1. Improves performance on the Nature of Science and Engineering sub-score of the MCAIII and 2. At a minimum does not decrease content specific sub-scores. A pilot with a small sample of school districts was performed during Spring, 2014, while a larger study is in progress. While favorable but not statistically significant data was obtained regarding question 1, the results dispel the myth that time spent on Science Fair will hurt science content scores.

Note: In addition to the study itself, some information about protocols for research involving human subjects will also be presented.