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The Use of Animals in National High School Student Science Fair Projects in the United States

Crystal Miller-Spiegel

Science fair projects can provide a sound opportunity to teach students the value of scientific methodology without relying on the routine and unnecessary use of animals. Unfortunately, students are often encouraged to use animals in an expendable manner that both duplicates previous experiments and neglects the opportunity to “think outside the box” in order to generate new hypotheses/theories about human health, physiological processes or basic biological concepts. Although at least one national science fair sponsor has changed its policy regarding students’ utilisation of vertebrate animals, others continue to encourage the more traditional in vivo experimental projects. This paper will review the guidelines of two major national science fairs in the USA; types of projects conducted that involve animals; numbers of animals involved; interview responses by some student finalists who used vertebrates in their projects; successful initiatives by animal advocates in the USA to eliminate the use of animals in science fairs; and potential areas of outreach to science educators, science fair sponsors, high schools and students.