The science fair was this week, and I’ve never been so happy to finish “projects that I’m not involved in.” While it’s lovely in theory to allow your child to conduct and then create a presentation of an entire project on his/her own, the practical execution of said theory never shakes out the way you imagine. And somehow, everyone always ends up rushing around like idiots (I mean calm, collected examples of grace under pressure), and flipping out over their last minute science fair projects.
Our kids go to a Montessori school. In theory, this means Newt and Elfie are supposed to be learning to fend for themselves. I know that sounds ridiculous since the point of raising children is to make sure they can be contributing members of society when you kick them out of the house, but apparently we need a whole “educational model” to guide us now-a-days. When I was a kid, my parents just left us alone and sort of hoped we wouldn’t burn the house down.
Anyway, when it comes to the science fair, we do our best to leave them alone. And it ends up looking something like this:
- Just reminding you that the science fair is a month away. It would be good to work on it a little every day.
- Okay, I’ve already given you about ten suggestions. What do you like?
- Here. Here’s an online quiz that asks you about your interests to see if there’s a project you might like to do.
- I don’t think it helps if you say “no” to everything (Newt)/”yes” to everything (Elfie).
- Don’t get ticked at me — I told you in December that you needed to get permission from a special board if you wanted to experiment on people or dogs.
- Light? Well it’s a wave and a particle, and you see stuff because it bounces off in a convex…no wait. Oh crap. Just go ask Dad.
- Okay, here, watch this Bill Nye the Science Guy video on YouTube.
- How many times are you going to watch that Bill Nye video?
- Just reminding you that science fair is two weeks away. It would be good to work on it a little every day.
- Elfie, yours isn’t even on light. Stop watching Bill Nye and go look up global warming.
- Global warming? It’s when pollution is released into the atmosphere and gets trapped and eats away at the ozone…no wait. Oh crap. Just go ask Dad.
- Okay, here, look at this website on global warming.
- Yes, I have candles. But don’t light anything yet.
- Yeah, I know, it’s totally fun using the lighter.
- Okay, I guess that lighter’s dead now.
- Yes, I suppose it’s a good thing you insisted on keeping those giant Legos instead of giving them away. Your hoarding paid off…
- No, apparently we have to come back because the store’s actually run out of tri-fold boards.
- Just reminding you that your science fair project is due in a week. In five days. In two days.
- Can you not ask me how to spell stuff for just 10 minutes so I can read this?
- Yes, I can print that out.
- Yes, I bought glue sticks.
- You guys do realize that all I wanted to do tonight was relax and watch the Oscars.
- Just. . . go ask Dad.
The Curse of the Last Minute Science Fair Projects
Every year, the kids decide last minute that they want to “do a great job” on their projects. Every year they get a little ticked off because they aren’t chosen to go on to the “big show” from their classes. And every year, I tell them if they want to win, they need to step it up next year.
This time, I think they actually pulled off some good experiments. But the two of them are so stubborn and difficult (I have no idea where that comes from) that I just gave up when it came to giving them any kind of advice on the unfortunately important details — like cutting the paper you put on your boards in really straight lines. And using contrasting colored sheets of paper to set off your display. And making bold titles.
But I basically said screw it. They were making me so irritated by the end of it all that I threw in the towel. Besides, I’m a Montessori mom.
I’m supposed to let them burn their own houses down.
And just in case you wanted to steal these for your own kids…
Newt’s Project: Can a Wii Work if You Substitute the Sensor Bar with Candles
You know that little bar that you have to stick on the top of your TV when you set up the Wii? It shoots out two beams of infrared light. So if you hide it, the pointer on the remote won’t work. Candles, coincidentally, also give off infrared light (although it’s slightly different — far versus near). If you set up candles in front of the TV, the Wii will work.
The experiment can test whether or not this is a bunch of baloney! And you can also measure the distance from the TV that the remote will work when you use the bar versus a candle, a few candles, etc. Makes for a lovely graph. Science fairs just love graphs.
Elfie’s Project: Will the Shorelines Flood if the Polar Icecaps Melt (AKA Are We All Doomed)
This turned out to teach both kids a concept that didn’t seem all that difficult at first glance but is apparently pretty tough to understand.
- Take two containers — she used roasting pans. One will be the North Pole and the other the South Pole.
- Create something to represent “land” — she used giant legos.
- Make one more piece of land to represent the South Pole (because the South Pole’s ice is actually on land).
- Get a container with holes in the bottom of it (like the one strawberries come in) and fill it with ice.
- Dump the ice in the North Pole pan.
- Fill the North Pole’s pan with water to the very edge of the shoreline. The North Pole’s ice is not on land, so this represents its ice.
- Fill the South Pole’s pan with water to the very edge of the shoreline.
- Refill the strawberry container and set it on top of the South Pole’s land mass.
- Wait for everything to melt.
The end result is that melting at the South Pole will cause flooding because it adds additional volume to the container. As sucky as melting at the North Pole will be on the ecosystem in ways too numerous to count, it won’t create beachfront property in Nevada.
So there you have it. Last minute science fair projects for the children of all you really responsible, hands-off parents. Now get out there and let your kids get stressed out and fail! It’ll be good for them, I swear.