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Science Education Shows Up In the State of the Union Speech

State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
In this week's State of the Union address, President Obama reminded the country of the vital importance of reinforcing for our students the fact that academic achievement is to be celebrated—and that academics should be on the same playing field with athletics. Speaking of the race to educate our kids, President Obama said, "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair."

Celebrate Participation—Not Just Winners

At Science Buddies, we agree that the value of scientific inquiry, and of the spirit to test and understand and explore, needs to be celebrated. Right now, many schools in the U.S. are in the middle of "science fair season." There will be many winners, and yet there will be many, many more "participants"—students who, as part of a class or just because they wanted to, took part in a local or school science fair. We think it's important to celebrate and support all of those students—each and every study who conducted an experiment, who studied the scientific method, who asked a question about how something works or what makes something happen or what might happen if I do this, who sat down to formulate a hypothesis, and who then put their research to the test with an experiment.

Get Involved

Will you be watching the Super Bowl? Will you talk the next day with your friends and family members about a great play, or even about a cool TV commercial? Did you talk with your friends and family about the Nobel Prize winners?

Helping encourage science education, helping make it "cool" to excel in school, to participate in science fair, and to envision a future in which each student can make a difference, takes all of us. You can help support STEM education in many ways. One step you can take is to visit your local science fair(s) and take an interest in the wide range of projects on display by all the students who participated, not only the display boards sporting ribbons. Take a minute to listen to a student's summary of her project. Take a minute to ask a question about a display board or an interesting finding or an unusual area of study. Take a minute to be inspired by what students can do, are learning, and can discover. And, even as you are inspired, make sure you take a moment to say so, to tell a student that what she has done matters.

You can also show the value of science education by making science a more important part of your family's life at home. Science news and scientific principles can easily become part of dinner conversation. From the gadgets and gizmos in popular movies to hot toys on the market to science discoveries making the news, science surrounds us. Our kids are using and soaking up science every day, but sometimes they don't realize that what they love involves science. And sometimes they don't realize that the discoveries being made by researchers around the world are discoveries that they, too, can explore with grade-appropriate projects and experiments that let them investigate important scientific principles and concepts. Talking about science with our students helps them make connections—and helps them make sense of the world around them.

You might be surprised what you and your students can explore and test and learn when you turn off the TV for a few hours. We've got a list of fun projects on the Science Buddies website that use materials you probably have on hand and don't take weeks to complete!

Making some of your "family time" also "science time" can have a huge impact on your students' view of science.

One Science Project can Change the World—And a Student's Future

Remember, your student's science project isn't just a school assignment. Instead, it is an opportunity for students to explore how the world around them works and to prepare themselves for life beyond school in the 21st century. Whether their hypothesis was proven or not, participating matters and is worth celebrating.

Note: Share with your students the stories of the four students who were invited to sit with the First Lady for this week's address!

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