Participation of secondary school students in science fairs in the Waikato region over the period 1990-1995 decreased, while that of intermediate school age students increased at a faster rate. This trend occurred against a background of the preparation and presentation of a fair exhibit being increasingly used as a component of formal science education, rather than an out-of-school and voluntary activity. In general, exhibits on a biological theme are favoured by girls, exhibits related to physical science by boys, with none being particularly drawn to exhibits related to technology. The presentation of group exhibits is more pronounced among girls, especially in the biological sciences.
The choice of exhibits is apparently student-directed but there is evidence that the organisational culture of some schools not only fosters participation but encourages participation in particular subject areas. When the exhibits are grouped into output classes used by the Foundation for Research in Science and Technology's Public Good Science Fund, it is clear that the priority areas for research policy makers are not those that students find of interest. Possibly related to this is the near inverse relationship between the overall relative popularity of life sciences, physical sciences, and technology exhibits and the relative proportions of employment in those areas.
The role of science fairs in both formal and informal science education may have implications for the appeal and attractiveness of science, both as a school subject and as an employment destination.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright of their publications.