Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Be-leeve in Sci-ence

Having a fourth grader means that I got to participate in my first Science Fair. . . ever.  When I was a girl at Lincoln Elementary, science mostly consisted of trying to create fire with rocks and monosyllabic grunts.  But Mr Davis has grown up since I was his student and informed us at the first of this year that there would be a Science Fair in May.  

We went on one of the internet sites Mr Davis recommended and I'll admit that I chose a project that looked like it had gotten high ratings on the ease factor.  Apparently I am just a great big nerd.  

Oh, ignorant Sarah!  Flash forward to the Science Fair when we witnessed the experiments about "How to Temper Chocolate" or "The Life-Cycle of a Preying Mantis."  Holden and I spent hours creating a "buffer solution" so we could extract DNA from two different types of fruit and then measure and compare the volume.  We were hunched over our carefully measured experiment while other Moms and kids were having fondue parties!  Next time I'll know better.  

As I read the instructions I had downloaded for the project, I was paralyzed by the thought that this right-brained girl may have gotten in over her brain-cells.  When I got to the part about calculating volume, it sounded like this to me : "Measure the diameter of the container and then multiply the square of the measurement of the bippety-boppety-hodee-haa ?"  I'm really a much better fairy-godmother/party planner than I am a lab assistant and I felt like my head was going to implode.  

    My fears about my qualifications as a parent subsided when I realized that the project would be graded on the quality of the poster, not necessarily the depth of understanding of the scientific method.  In essence, the project was like making a big crafty card. . . Oh yes!  THAT, I can do!  

With utter crafty confidence, I sat at the computer, finding the perfect science-fair-esque font and a color scheme for his poster, planning out the photo-ops and the implementation of clever copy. I really got into the whole affair when I realized that I would be able to photoshop all of the pictures in a blog-tastic way.    In the end, it was just like creating one big, happy blog post on poster-board.  

 Holden's younger siblings eagerly gathered round to witness our scientific miracle, probably supposing that this scientific display would compare to Professor Sargeant's at Caleb's Harry Potter party.  They seemed a little disappointed when there were no explosions and no blood.  They perked up a little when I told them they could eat the apple peels, and Ethan was happy to use the extra piece of the nylons we had used to strain the fruit mixture to look like a future bank robber.

As Holden measured the ingredients for the "buffer," I'm sure we looked more like a lab in the style of Marie Calendar rather than Marie Curie as we used mixing bowls and pyrex rather than test tubes and medicine droppers. I rummaged through my tupperware to find something like a test tube and I found the cylindrical containers the NICU gave me last year for storing breast milk. I was thrilled to be able to recycle those maddening little pieces of plastic--the constant reminder of how inadequate the nurses seemed to think my milk supply was! (If only they could see my little, rolly piglet now!)
I was genuinely shocked when the experiment worked and we could actually SEE the layer that had the DNA in it.

 Before we were done, Holden had to make a quick exit to one of his two and a half hour baseball games and didn't return until 8:30 PM, so we didn't end up finishing the poster until 11:27 PM that night.  As we glued on the last of the information, Holden was sprawled out on the floor groaning about how tired he was, and I was prancing excitedly around the craft room,  making sure everything on the poster was symmetrical, and that the colors and pictures were balanced thematically according to the scientific information.

It wasn't until the next day at the Science Fair that I saw that our carefully composed thesis statement and use of precise evidence went above and beyond the expectations of Holden's teacher.  I tried to remind myself of the value of the academic bonding experience of mother and son as I relived the painstaking process of ensuring that Holden knew about formulating a research question and using evidence to prove his theory when I glanced around and saw other students happily dipping marshmallows in chocolate and reveling in the fact that the female preying mantis does indeed eat her mate.  
In the end, though, we learned a valuable lesson.  We DO believe in science.  But we believe in scrapbooking skills even more.  


Becca said...

Cool project! Science fairs always intimidate me but now I'll know that the key is in the presentation....

Dacia said...

What an awesome project! You both did a great job!

I can totally sympathize because my son is only in the 2nd grade and we've had to do a science project every year so far. We're going to have to start coming up with some more intense projects in the future! Yikes.

Anonymous said...

I believe in that very same thing! Who needs science when you can scrapbook??!? I am so not looking forward to science fairs! Ugh! Don't they know it's the parents who do most of the work anyway??

Kimber said...

"bippety-boppety-hodee-haa" - I'm so relieved to learn that I'm not the only one that interprets science this way.

Let me just give you a heads up for next fall: every 5th grader gets to make an edible cell with all of it parts labeled. I'm sure you and Holden will come up with a gourmet, worthy of the Food Network cell that the whole 5th grade (and their mothers) will envy!

Christine Gilbert said...

That is the BEST science project I have ever seen!! Way to document it all. You'll be a pro mother of a scientist by the time Marie reaches Mr. Davis! Good job!

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