By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon
Science fair. If you were one of the lucky ones who completed one of these projects as a kid, I’m willing to bet your body just gave an involuntary shudder.
I was one of the lucky ones in eighth, ninth, AND tenth grade (thanks, private school) and I distinctly remember a lunchtime conversation with my fellow freshmen in which one of my friends referred to the science fair as the “destroyer of families.” Frankly, she wasn’t far off.
Science fair is not unlike marathon training, which cycles through various emotional stages until the victim crosses the finish line…and either celebrates or dies. The science fair comes with seven distinct stages, which is coincidentally the same number of levels in Dante’s description of hell. Just saying.
Stage 1: Hope and Excitement.
This first stage is – inconceivably – filled with hope and excitement. My seventh grader came home from homeschool co-op excited. I patted myself on the back for choosing a rigorous curriculum with such excellent opportunities for my kids. It’s possible that I wasted valuable brain cells envisioning my child discovering the cure for cancer and pasting it on that tri-fold board. Then, he told me what he was actually planning to do.
Stage 2: Deflation.
Yes, my child prodigy, also a competitive swimmer, decided to investigate what makes objects sink and float. No lab tests, no petri dishes, not even an investigation into which household cleaner kills the most germs. (Does he even know we own household cleaner? Has he ever used it?) Just a very simple investigation that involves cutting objects open to determine their composition and then testing whether those objects sink or float. No Nobel Prize for us this year. Maybe his little siblings will aim higher?
Stage 3: Acceptance.
Given the way said child is procrastinating on the background research, it’s a very good thing we aren’t doing a project with a petri dish. I believe it takes more than one night for those things to grow anything.
Stage 4: Rage.
Science fair is the worst thing in the world. It is, in fact, a destroyer of families. My child is the first child in the history of time to put off this stupid project until the weekend before, and I will not help him with it. No, it is his problem that every store in the Triad is sold out of tri-fold boards. He will have to find his own way through this. I will eat a box of girl scout cookies and hide in my room.
Stage 5: Pity.
The experiments finally happened. As I suggested weeks earlier, he had left out some valuable research, and the baseball did, in fact, float…which directly disproved his hypothesis. At this point, I told him to go research the porous nature of cork, and then I opened a bottle of wine to show him that cork floats. That bottle of wine was totally opened for the purposes of science and not at all because I felt entitled to a glass. But hey, the purpose of the science fair is to learn the scientific method, and my kid learned that sometimes a hypothesis is wrong. He wrote an explanation of why his data was skewed and printed out his ten-page paper, complete with an actual (and correct) bibliography. I felt kind of bad for him and drove twenty minutes to find a tri-fold board in stock. I even dragged out the paper cutter so it would look halfway decent – but I made him use the rubber cement. That stuff still stinks just as badly as it did in the 80’s.
Stage 6: Pride.
I looked across the gym, and my itty bitty baby was smiling proudly, explaining his project to grandparents and siblings alike. He looked so…proud. And confident. Plus, big. Never mind the battle we had on the way out the door regarding his choice to wear athletic pants with a button down shirt. His attire looked ridiculous, but he did not.
Stage 7: Elation.
He did so well. His scores were excellent. He did not have the fanciest board there, but I am a working mom, and he completed it himself. (Except for the paper cutter…because who has time to go to the ER the night before science fair?) You know what? Science fair is the best thing ever. You know what this reminds me of? That moment when you hold your newborn baby and completely forget about the twenty hours of labor and the episiotomy. Never mind all that. I can’t wait for his brother to do it. I’ll go ahead and buy the tri-fold board now – but this time I’ll plan ahead and buy the pre-assembled kit.
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