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Scientific literacy is undesirably low: California ranks 49th in 8th grade science literacy (NCES, 2011). The amount of time dedicated to science instruction in elementary schools is minimal (Blank, 2013). And yet, young people will soon be entering a society faced with complex social, economic, and environmental issues requiring scientifically- and civically-engaged individuals able and willing to participate in public discourse and contribute to the healthy functioning of our democracy (Dewey, 1938; NAS, 2007).

Out-of-school time science education may help improve scientific literacy of young people (NRC, 2009). Improving interest of youth for science is important to begin early; youth develop an interest in science careers before middle school (Maltese & Tai, 2010). The emerging research on science festivals have shown promise in the following ways. 

Benefits of Science Festivals

For Youth: Helps spark young people's curiosity and excitement for STEM

Science festivals help support young people in becoming more interested in science, learning something new about science, and experiencing science as more fun and enjoyable. Science festivals also support underrepresented communities engagement in STEM. - Goodman Research Group, 2013

"participants become more interested in science, learn something new about science, are motivated to seek
out more science-related activities, and feel more connected to the science happening in their cities."

 Science Festival Alliance 

For Communities: Strengthens a community's STEM learning ecosystem

Science festivals involved hundreds of exhibitors, representing organizations, schools, non-profits, corporations, and many others to engage youth in hands-on science education. These exhibitors also learn and share with each other during a festival, strengthening their connections in the community.


"The collaborative call-to-arms of a festival recharges existing relationships and energizes entirely new partnerships" 
E. Schuster, 2014

"Collaboration is a key outcome of science festivals. A multitude of benefits from collaboration have been documented: expansion of the ... network, cross-sector interactions that provide people entrée to new communities and experiences, a variety of types of assistance taking place, and relationships to support STEM education that extend beyond the festival calendar. "

- C. A. Bevc, D. Young, & K. Peterman, in Journal of Science Communication

For Scientists: New opportunities to communicate science to the public

Festivals feature many points of entry for scientists and engineers to get involved directly in public outreach. These scientists and engineers improve their own competence and confidence interacting with public audiences. - Goodman Research Group, 2013

What youth say about their experience

How does an experience like the Discovery Day influence children?

What are thoughts about future choices and occupations?

Here are comments from youth who attended a Discovery Day.

My geophysics major in college was inspired by my third grade teacher

I enjoyed teaching the little kids about science

I enjoyed teaching the little kids about science

A 6th grade experience got my into science

I was more competitive with Odyssey of the Mind!

It improved my public speaking skills

"I just thought you might like to hear how helpful everything on your North Bay Science Discovery Day page has been for one of the kids I work with! I'm a tutor and librarian and have been working with a young girl named Alyssa for a few days on a lot of different science subjects. Not that she needs tutoring or anything, she went to a STEM camp over summer and is obsessed with doing something science related as a career. I've been showing her just how many different options are out there and everything you put up on your STEM Links page really helped drive that point home for her! Figured I'd let you know how much she and I appreciate it all. I'll definitely be passing along your page to some of the other students! About the same time we stumbled across your page, Alyssa also found this breakdown of the different types of engineering fields that are out there. She was thinking of pursuing a career in engineering when she grew up so this was incredibly beneficial for her. After all the help she got from you she thought we should pass it along as our way of saying thanks! She figured there's probably some other kids out there who would get some use out of it, too, in case you wanted to add it to your page! If you do, would you mind emailing me back so I can let her know you liked her suggestion?


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