Archive for April 22nd, 2010

Science Fair statistics: Girls and science

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center hosted the district-wide science fair on Saturday, April 17. What a great opportunity to see students applying the scientific method to questions and investigations, some obviously inspired by their daily lives: “Rotting Bananas” and “Sharpie Be Gone” – I’m just sure these were the result of personal experiences!

I am personally deeply invested in the success of girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, so I used our entrants list to crunch a few numbers about female participation in the fair. Since this is the district wide fair, our contestants were the students who ranked in the top 3-5 places at their individual school’s science fairs. I’m happy to report that we actually had more female entrants this year (41 girls to 40 boys – yeah, yeah, I know, more girls by only 1, but still!). I think this is a great sign that our girls are just as likely as our boys to place at the top in their school’s science fairs.

Things took a slight turn in the rankings at our district fair. We had one clear winner, a 5th grade boy. Our second place award was a tie between a 5th grade boy and a 4th grade girl. Additionally, the top 1/3 ranked science fair entrants are recognized with “Superior” and “Excellent” designations. This year, 30 students received those awards. Happily, we had an equal number of boys and girls in this top 1/3 (not counting the first and second place finishers).

Interestingly, when I broke the numbers down a little further, things were not quite so balanced. We awarded 10 “Superior” designations: only 2 of those recipients were girls. Of our “Excellent” designations, 12 were girls. The boys were more evenly divided between the two designations (8 Superior and 6 Excellent), but clearly the girls were not. So, while girls are just as likely as boys to reach the district science fair, and just as likely as boys to finish in the top 1/3, they were not as evenly represented in the top 13 spots: 10 spots were won by boys, with just 3 spots won by girls.

This is the first year I’ve participated in the coordination of the Science Fair and so was the first time I looked at the gender breakdowns for participation. I’ll be sure to look again next year, and the year after that, to see if we can spot trends. For this year, I’m pleased with the statistics.

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