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The Value of Learning by Doing

In this month's issue of The Scientist, Sarah L. Simmons, director of the Freshman Research Initiative in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, makes a compelling case for the multiple benefits of providing opportunities for students to perform hands-on research early in their academic careers. "Imagine the impact on the arts if we required every aspiring instrumentalist to complete 12 years of theory and careful study of the masters before being allowed to pick up an instrument and play," she writes.  Likewise, how are we to expect the practice of exposing eager young minds to years of lecture-format science courses to generate the enthusiasm required to propel them further along the STEM path?  Early, authentic research experiences, such as those that students acquire through participation in science fairs, can be hugely valuable in transforming "science-curious" students into science majors.

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