Review: Science Fair Season
I have to admit that I was not a fan of science fairs as a kid. I made the obligatory poster boards, filling my trifolds with boring results from insignificant studies on how various beverages influence tooth enamel. I was by no means revolutionizing the world of science, nor were my classmates. Our science fairs were a far cry from those described in Judy Dutton’s Science Fair Season. At the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair students are engaged in real science from astronomy to animal husbandry to chemistry to physics to robotics. This science fair is a meeting of some of the greatest minds in our country, and they’re under 18.
Fans of Alexandra Robbins The Overachievers, Alec Klein’s A Class Apart, and other education-related case studies will love Dutton’s moving and inspirational book. Dutton follows the journeys of 12 kids to the ultimate in science fairs. She provides a good balance of back story, case study, and scientific explanations, though there is occasionally more emphasis on the personal lives of some of the participants than on their work. While a greater focus on the scientific aspect might have been preferable for me at times, I appreciate the accessibility of the narrative as it stands. The geek in me still rejoiced while reading stories of drug-sniffing cockroaches, horse therapy, nuclear reactors, and testing for water pollution. I would have been thrilled to read about even more participants, but I suppose that would have made this a massive book.
When you are doubting the next generation, reading Science Fair Season is a good way to feel better about the future of our country and our world. Dutton moves deftly across a wide range of people and disciplines, detailing the life-changing opportunities the science fair provides all of its participants. This extraordinary mixture of drama and science reads faster than one might expect for nonfiction; it’s like reality television in book form. In fact, if somebody made reality television like this about science fair competitors, I would watch it in a heartbeat. Science Fair Season is a book that I’d love to put in the hands of every science geek I can find. If you are a science teacher or student, the parent of science lover, or just a nerd who needs a pick-me-up, be sure to check this book out.