The Science Fair TraditionAlthough the first nationwide science fair competition took place in the year of 1950, the tradition actually goes back at least thirty years before this time. The famous newspaper owner, E.W. Scripps, started a science fair program that was intended to bring more attention to this academic subject and provide explanations for technical subjects in a way that most Americans could understand. As the idea caught on, teachers in middle school and high school settings decided to have local competitions of the projects that their students had completed.
While the science fair for kids has become an American institution, there has been a great deal of criticism about the competitive nature of the events. Instead of celebrating science, the events have turned into a competitive affair, with honors, awards, and prizes given to those students that excel. Promoters of science fairs argue that the competitions exist in the same manner in professional circles, with the awards being grants for further research and even a Nobel Prize in some cases. This issue has made the high school and middle school events harder to rate, as a judge must take into account what parental help the students may have had.
Still, there is a large amount of prestige attached to the winners of science fairs, with some receiving scholarships for their higher education. In this vein, students are having to be more creative and inventive with their science fair project ideas to stay at the top of the competition. Many use topics that are current, such as ecologically friendly subjects or renewable energy, to stay ahead of the game and avoid using subjects that have been overused in previous years. Although science fairs can be a controversial topic, there is no denying that it allows students to think critically about various issues and improve their problem solving skills.
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