Fair is Fair

Am I the only adult who misses participating in the science fair?

I guess it’s not really the science I miss, exactly. Although, that was cool, I guess. (In 9th grade I got high marks for an experiment on sonoluminescence—creating light by bombarding water bubbles with ultrasonic waves, causing them to vibrate fast enough that they throw off electrons, creating tiny bursts of light that can be captured on film. Like all great science fair projects, it was an idea I came across and played with, and not something I came up with myself–just in case you were wondering.)

But more than that, I miss getting all dressed up, getting excited on the Big Day, setting up my little booth, listening to the rumble of a room full of little geniuses and their families.

I miss feeling heard. I miss having a public forum where I got to share an idea that seemed pretty cool to me, and to have people listen attentively.

Okay, you might argue that that’s what a blog is as well—except that it isn’t the same.  A blog is created and consumed as a private experience. Doing this in an actual public environment is a different experience entirely.

So, here’s how my brain works: I ask myself, what would be a good application of the science fair outside of junior high?

My answer is called the Future Fair.

Instead of being about science, this fair is about civic engagement. Anyone who wants to would be able to register to present an idea for improving their city. This could be something grand, or something practical, or something totally fantastical. In fact, maybe ribbons should be awarded in those categories.

There would be a category for kids, and a category for adults, and maybe a team category so the child and parent can work together.

And the best part? Because the focus is on ideas instead of experimentation, the focus of your preparation could be where it truly belongs: on the backdrop! You could go factual and display charts or news articles supporting your ideas, or you could go the creative route, busting out your model-making and diorama skills. What better way to get people excited about your high-rise playground concept than to build a tiny version of one, and show just how much fun those tiny, toy children are having!

In addition to the pleasure of working on something creative, and the challenge of presenting and defending your ideas publicly, I like the idea of creating a new channel for civic engagement. We are all involved in the daily goings on of our cities, and yet it is easy for us to step back and assume that our officials have everything well in hand (or to assume that our officials are incompetent, but there’s nothing we can do about it!). Can you imagine a society in which we are all excited to make our voices heard in civic matters?

  • If the Future Fair took place in your city, what would your project be?

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