Widening the impact of science fairs


Science fairs are a tried and tested model, with a strong positive impact on student engagement. Students involved in such activities display high levels of creativity to solve technical barriers: many design experiments which they can run in their own homes using low cost equipment, but which enable them to make important scientific conclusions. Embedding science fairs and festivals in the mainstream of school activity has progressed since the first Intel Educator Academy, thanks to some governmental initiatives: 

  1. The Israeli education system is highly centralised, and is expanding participation in the national science fair as part of a program to increase the number of science graduates. The national science fair is operated by the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, and partners with Intel ISEF at global level, and EUCYS at European level.

  2. The German Youth Research competition (Jugend Forscht) has very close partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, as founding partner of the competition along with the magazine 'Stern', and five other relevant Ministries offer their support.

  3. In Ireland, the highly successful BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition is supported by the Department for Education, and has increased in impact year on year, with 40,000 people attending the last event. The organisers offer concrete advice to teachers on how to map the competition activities directly to curriculum objectives, so that it can be carried out in class with any science and technology student.

  4. Similarly, the Mawhiba programme in Saudi Arabia cooperates directly with the Ministry of Education, to organise local, regional and national science fairs for the whole of the kingdom since 2007.

  5. Slovakia also demonstrates a strong partnership between the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport and the Young Scientists of Slovakia association for the organisation of the Scientia Pro Futuro competition.

  6. Another example is the Jet Net Career Day, in the Netherlands, where participating companies man interactive stands, where they share their expertise. The aim, when students visit a stand, is to achieve a ratio of 20% listening and 80% doing.

Main recommendations:

  1. Reach out to wider groups of partners at national and regional level to increase impact and visibility.

  2. Consider involving media partners as well as the usual associations and government partners. Government partners need to continue to be pushed to further integrate fairs with schooling.

  3. Youth panels offer a valuable "reality check" to ensure approaches really suit their needs. Engage where possible with groups who do not usually participate: their support in advisory roles may help to widen participation.

  4. Ensure continued sharing of impact assessment methods, data and strategies for evaluation.