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Fewer Baking Soda Volcanoes

Ah, the school science fair — baking soda volcanoes, posters on genetic engineering, tennis-ball models of the solar system. President Obama even held one at the White House last fall, and he's said we should celebrate science fair winners as much as we celebrate sports heroes, "or risk losing the nation's competitive edge," says The New York Times' Amy Harmon. But participation in science fairs is declining, and some educators say that the problem is the US education policy, which emphasizes math and reading scores to the detriment of the kind of creativity and independent thinking that is needed to make a great science fair entry, Harmon adds. In some schools, science fairs are required, and some high schools send their best students to prestigious science competitions, but the potential to expose a larger portion of American teens to the wonders of science is what's being lost, educators say. "One obvious reason for flagging interest in science fairs is competing demands for high school students' extracurricular attention," Harmon says. "But many educators said they wished the projects were deemed important enough to devote class time to them, which is difficult for schools whose federal funding hinges on improving math and reading test scores."

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