Should the science fair be optional?

Bayonne parents are once again weighing in on the topic

Dina Lonky is one of many Bayonne parents who are tired of the mandatory science fair required of their kids. At the October meeting of the Bayonne Board of Education, she asked the board to make the fair optional, in the interests of household harmony.

“Every year, every parent gets this invitation to the science fair,” Lonky said. “Every parent would like to, well [some] of us, decline the invitation to the science fair. Most of the parents wind up doing the work. We all know this. We all have kids. You can tell what parents do it and what parents don’t.”

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But Lonky doesn’t want to eliminate the science fair. She would just rather it be optional.

“It should be an optional thing,” Lonky said. “It shouldn’t be forced on these kids. It shouldn’t be forced on the parents. It causes nothing but turmoil in the household.”

According to Lonky, if the district is going to keep it a mandatory thing, they should have the students work on science fair projects in class.

“If you want to do this and make it mandatory for the kids, have them do it during school,” Lonky said. “Why does it have to come home with them? Because it’s going to wind up disrupting whatever the teacher is already teaching so they can’t meet the criteria of what they have to teach.”

Anguish and turmoil?

Lonky said that working on the science fair projects at home only causes frustration: “At home it’s screaming, it’s yelling. You’ve all been through this plenty of times. I got four kids. We’re on what, eight projects so far. It’s absolutely ludicrous to keep doing this to all these families. Make it optional. That kid who really likes science, let them do it. Let them have at it, but there’s kids who aren’t into it and it causes nothing but a fight.”

According to Lonky, the science fair is also another added expense: “It causes extra money out of the parents pockets.” She added that more people support the idea to make it optional this year compared to last year. Due to COVID-19 forcing the district to operate under virtual learning, the science fair was optional, she said. Lonky wants to keep that option for every year now.

“Not everybody’s into science and you can’t do it in school even though i think you should,” Lonky said. “it takes away from a lot of family time. These kids are in sports. You go places on the weekends, this and that and you’re doing 20 plus hours of fighting with your kid trying to find a project that someone hasn’t done. Or your parent or whoever is trying to buy or borrow a project from somebody else… The kids don’t do this, the parents do this. And it honestly should be made optional for those kids who actually like science.”

Parents sign petition

The board did not respond to Lonky’s proposal. But Lonky has taken her efforts online, having already set up a change.org petition asking the board to make it optional. So far 39 people have signed, including former candidate in the recent school board elections Gina Irizarry.

“The science fair project is not productive at all,” Irizarry said. “It should be facilitated during science class with the teacher supervising and not a burdensome family event which has developed into. Or perhaps an optional project.”

However, in a response to the petition being posted on social media, many parents felt the science fair was necessary. A former teacher in Bayonne, Mary Ellen O’Donnell Egan said in a comment in response to the post: “As a former teacher I think the Science Fair is important. It prepares the students for so many things, just to name a few: research techniques, scientific method, meeting a deadline , following guidelines, responsibility in planning and time management, developing communication skills, active participation in learning, sense of pride and accomplishment, and joy in seeing the results of hard work and determination.”

Others push back

Egan said she does not think it should be optional.

“As children grow, their responsibilities increase,” Egan said. “This is a gradual introduction to what will be expected of them in high school, college, and the working world. Knowledge is literally at their fingertips nowadays. Encourage them to use their computers for more than playing games and social media.”

Other agreed with Egan, adding they actually enjoyed the science fair themselves or that their children enjoy it. Another former teacher from Bayonne Kim Miesowitz Simko also defended the science fair in a comment, noting that it was part of the state curriculum.

“I would tell my kids do something fun and something they like,” Simko said. “There are tons of projects to do. Let them do the project not the parents. Put the info on Google slides then, if you have to, print those out and put on a board. Simple is better.”

While the conversation continues, students, or their parents, will still have to continue to compete in the science fair as part of the curriculum.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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