The Synopsys Outreach Foundation began a program enabling students and teachers developing science projects in 1999. While the value of learning science via a hands-on experience appeared self-evident, limited research on the subject existed.

In May 2012, the Synopsys Outreach conducted a survey of 1600 students in grades 4-12 in Santa Clara County developing science projects during the 2011-’12 school year. The survey was designed to ask students to assess their levels of skill in several areas before and after completing a science project.

“The Synopsys Outreach Foundation Student Science Project Evaluation Report” showed that students demonstrated statistically significant increases in their ability to perform numerous “21st Century Workplace” skills, including managing deadlines, developing and conducting experiments, keeping a logbook, analyzing data, creating a chart or graph, writing results and creating a presentation board.

The survey also showed that a substantial majority of students in upper elementary, middle and high school “spent four or more hours working on their science fair projects and carrying out much of this work outside of their science class time”. This is particularly compelling in light of one study, High Hopes–Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California, which reported that 40% of elementary school teachers in grades K-5 said that their students receive 60 minutes or less of science instruction per week.

The survey was conducted by WestEd, a preeminent educational research, development, and service organization headquartered in San Francisco. WestEd has a staff of 600 employees and maintains 16 offices nationwide.

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