When I got out of my car, Elliot got out of his. “YEA!!!” was my next thought.
Elliot had stayed after school Tuesday to put the finishing touches on his project for Wednesday’s Science Fair.
“How is it going?” I had asked him on Tuesday.
“Good,” he replied and then, in explanation said, “I threw away the project we talked about because the potatoes were gross and decided to do a different project.”
“Oh?” I responded, “Tell me about it.”
“I am going to do ‘Which is stronger a lion or a tiger?’” he said.
My heart sank. Really? Despite my almost Herculean efforts to help these kids develop a testable question and a valid experiment, somehow some of them still manage to miss the mark.
“Do you have a real tiger and a real lion?” I asked him.
“No,” he answered, obviously perplexed.
“Then it is not an experiment,” I said. “It is a research project, which is fine in its place but Science Fair is not the place. For Science Fair, you must have an experiment.”
So, less than 18 hours before Science Fair was to begin, we started over, Elliot and I. Fortuitously (for him, not me) I have witnessed many last minute projects and was able to give him some suggestions. We wrote a new question, hypothesis, and set of procedures and I sent him home to perform his experiment. He did not have a computer at home, much less a printer, and was very concerned about preparing his the display board for the fair.
“Okay,” I told him, “I get to school at 6:45 a.m. Tomorrow is Science Fair so I will be incredibly busy starting about 7:15. If you are there at 6:45 then I can help you until things get crazy, about 7:15.”
He came and I helped. I set him up in the faculty workroom where he used my computer to type what he had laboriously hand written. With a little guidance he created a graph for his data and with very little guidance he printed everything and posted it on his display board. Mission accomplished.
Not all missions were accomplished. On the day of the fair Mason told me that he did not bring his project because he did not get any results. ARG! “Yes you did,” I told him. No results are actually results; much priceless science knowledge has come from “failed” experiments. And two students simply did demonstrations—a hurricane-in-a-pop-bottle model and a recipe for oobleck—but I did not have any baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes, which was a victory. Most students had an experiment of some kind and most students had a great experience.
Brayden said “I honestly feel more inspired to do science research” and Avery said “I learned a lot about energy and conduction and might want to make it a career.” Cute, little Susan stated “It wasn’t as scary to present to the judges as I thought it would be” and Allison said “At first I was nervous but relaxed after the judges were very nice and very funny.” In response to the prompt “My overall opinion of my science fair experience was…….”, Gary wrote “EPIC”. My response to his response is COOL!
“Epic” could also be used to describe our field trip to the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. I invited all 8th grade science fair participants (almost 100 kids) to spend Friday with me at the museum. We met at the train station at 8:15 a.m., rode the FrontRunner to Lehi, walked a mile to the museum, spent an amazing couple hours in the museum, and then did the trip in reverse, arriving back at Union Station at 2:52 p.m.
It was fabulous. My kids are so, SO good. The museum staff was very concerned about turning a large group of junior high students loose in a museum that was already full to overflowing with elementary children. If only they knew my kids! As I circulated I saw three small children land on Brian’s head in the spider web, I witnessed Sicily carry a lost child to the nearest responsible-looking adult, I watched Bruce and Jose wait patiently as elementary student after elementary student after elementary student pushed their way in front of them in the line outside the wind tunnel, but I did not see any instances of recklessness or irresponsibility from my students. When it comes to respectful, responsible behavior, I will put my kids up against any elementary class anytime anywhere. Oh man, I love these kids!
The best part of the experience, however, was not my amazing students. It was my amazing daughter. Grace skipped her school Friday to come to mine. We spent the day together and it was truly EPIC.