Science Fair

Science! by Andrew Huff via Flickr

Tomorrow is our school’s science fair. With my career background (Ph.D. in organic chemistry) I love encouraging anything with science. It is a nostalgia piece for me anyway. When and where I was a kid you were not supposed to do a science project until 5th grade. However, when I hit 4th grade and saw my older brother working on his project I wanted to do one, too. My parents went to bat for me and asked for special permission to let me do a project. I have always remembered their support and encouragement – knowing that they were behind me 100% in whatever I wanted to try. I’ve tried to take that same approach, special needs not withstanding.

As soon as we get the flyer from school I start by asking my daughter if she wants to do a project. Of course she does. Then I start to listen. When she asks me a question that I don’t immediately know the answer to I say, “You know that would make a really good science fair project.” Usually she says, “Okay!” and we are off to the races. There is a really nice format suggested by the school that we follow for keeping the project on track and breaking it into small manageable pieces. About a week ago we started making all of the pieces for the display board. Tonight we have a few pieces left to make (hopefully easy!) and then we’ll put it all on the board. Sometimes I think I’m more into it than my daughter is, though I try very hard to make sure it is her project, not mine. The question is hers. I help her design some simple experiments, but she helps with observing, measuring and recording the data. She does the typing of each part of the display and helps organize it on the board. My hope is that she learns some skills for managing large projects and that overall it is a positive experience with something learned along the way.

It’s also a nice marker of her academic progress. Last year I was spelling every word for her letter by letter as she hunted and pecked on the keyboard. I helped her sound things out when the phonics rules were followed but otherwise left that alone because words that “broke the rules” were distressing to her. This year she was sounding out a lot of the words herself, remembering some tricky things like silent e’s and g’s that sound like j’s. It was not nearly so mind-numbing a process for me, though still hard not to just take over the keyboard myself.

It’s a lot of work, like most things that fall outside the routine. I’m pretty sure it’s worth every minute.

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