I remember my first science fair project. I was in the 5th or 6th grade and it was relatively simple and fun. But not for my kids. No, my kids have had science fair projects "mandated" (coughshoveddowntheirthroatscough) starting in the 3rd grade. And that would have been fine, except that today in the year 2016 science fair projects are so standardized and mind numbingly institutional that they are no longer fun. The kids just see a long list of requirements, grading rubrics and procedures and they are totally missing the whole point...science is amazing!
When I was a kid we were doing relatively normal science fair projects. Today, some of these science fair projects could double as a Master's Thesis. Am I supposed to believe that a 3rd grader really did the theoretical aerodynamic calculations and came up with the wind tunnel testing regime for a new way to design the roofs on houses in Florida to resistance hurricane force winds (we have a few engineers here on Florida's Space Coast and I guess some of these parents like to "help" their kid with a small science fair project...you know, getting them a little wind tunnel time). My biggest complaint about science fair projects today is that they can no longer be done without a significant amount of parental support (and by support I mean the parent essentially doing the project for their child). Science fair projects should be used as a hands-on way of learning a little bit about the scientific method while allowing the child to be both creative and inquisitive. It is really hard to be creative when the "guide" for this year's science project was about the length of your average novel (and a lot less entertaining if I may say so). Somehow, the school districts have figured out a way to suck all the fun out of science and I fear for the future generations of scientists. Seriously, who wants to go into a field of study that is so rigid and confining that every minute spent on the project is focused on whether you used the right color of ink (yes, you have to use blue ink and white-out is NOT allowed). Somehow I don't think the plants my child is growing is going to give a rats ass about the color of ink she is using to record statistics about their growth. BLUE INK ONLY, the massively over-sized science fair guide says in all bold and highlighted text.
Every year since 2007 we have spent the better part of our Christmas break talking one of our children (and sometimes two of them at the same time) off the ledge, calming them down and dragging them through this incredibly painful process that is the public school system's science fair project process. A few of those years we actually traveled away from Florida for Christmas and had to come home to work for several days straight non-stop through this scientific nightmare. I have one more year of this crap. One more year and my youngest will graduate from the 6th grade and be done with this ridiculous exercise in futility. Maybe after that "science" will stop being a four letter word in our house and we can start having fun with science again.