kitchen table math, the sequel: The difference between elite schools and regular schools

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The difference between elite schools and regular schools

In public schools, science fair projects are done by the kids parents.

In elite schools, the science fair projects are done by the kids teachers and by university professors.

Intel Competition Is Where Science Rules and Research Is the Key - New York Times
The contest [The Intel formerly known as the Westinghouse], which began in 1941, has been monopolized by New York schools because it had its roots in a local science fair and a cluster of New York personalities. Bronx Science and Stuyvesant eventually figured out the magical formula: Teach your kids to do research; don’t just offer cookbook experiments. Pair them with mentors at hospitals and universities, perhaps working on a small piece of the mentor’s puzzle, so the projects are more than garage-built contraptions. Assign high school teachers as enforcers to help students through rough patches and make sure they meet deadlines.
Ashley Bahnken, working with a mentor at the University of Texas, tried to prove through a survey of 177 college students that first-born children tend to make friends with other first-born or only children.
This year, Forrest Anderson studied a way to use physical therapy to reduce falls by patients with Parkinson’s disease, learning how to analyze data with mentors at the University of Florida and at Columbia University’s Teachers College. He said a biology teacher, Allison Wheeler, “edited these papers a hundred times to find holes in the research.”


Anonymous said...

A mentor is really important if you are a serious researcher. Industry, hospitals, the armed forces and businesses are all looking to mentor young scientists.

But beware. If a student develops a product or device, who takes out the patent? Who get the royalties? Make sure you have the terms and conditions in writing.

Madeline Binder
Super Science Fair Projects

TurbineGuy said...


The post was meant in jest... I realize that young researchers need mentors.

I suspect that there is a wide variance in the amount of "help" mentors provide though.

I am not a big fan of science fairs though... I seriously doubt they have much educational value, or at least they dont among average students.

Anonymous said...

Science fair projects definitely have educational value. They are a metaphor for life experiences.

It's in the doing science fair projects where learning takes place. It is about conceiving of an idea, testing whether that idea will work or not and drawing conclusions.

I remember my son came in the house one day and told us that he had been experimenting with different ways of cutting the grass. He came to the conclusion that in a shaded area the grass grows thicker when it is cut on an angle. That could have been turned into a science fair project.

It is also about having the belief in yourself, coming up with an idea and learning how to follow thru until the end. Drawing conclusions and seeing what can be done differently next time promotes critical thinking.

Science fair projects are a great venue for learning a process. And that is what teachers and parents need to keep in mind.

Madeline Binder
Super Science Fair Projects