Science Fair day came and went in a blaze of gratitude and glory.
I was (and still am) so grateful for my science teacher buddies. Karen and Talyn are the greatest (and one of the main reasons I am still at OPA). My heart was also so full of gratitude for the judges. We had 25 judges and many of them came just because they are my friends: Phil Davis (Trek), Keith and Michelle (from Portland, OR), Joe Drago (who is like a brother to me), my parents (always have my back) and Allan Ormond (their neighbor, my friend), Freddy Perez (a former OPA student I tracked down) and Gil Green (a former student from Ben Lomond), Amy Buckway (WSU professor and my neighbor) and several parents who have been great to support my field trips--Anna Cash, Brenda Empie, Bill Davis, Jana Whitby, Annette Cumins, Heather Holliday and Stacey Brower. (Stacey came early--7:15 a.m--to register students, helped judge and then stayed late to help us calculate awards. HOLY COW!) And we worked the judges hard. Do the math….183 science fair entries (7th,8th, and 9th graders) x 3 (each student gets judged 3 times) = A LONG DAY!
In my speech to the judges I said “Be prepared to fall in love”.....and they did...fall in love. Many of them expressed gratitude for the opportunity to sacrifice their time and tax their brains. They were so good to focus intently on each student; to make every student feel heard and valued. Priceless.
Maybe not priceless but certainly valuable is the importance of choosing a topic of personal relevance. I really emphasized creating one’s own experiment this year and, though I did get a few “cookbook” experiments, most of the kids chose questions in which they had a personal interest. Jaime made 5 sandwiches and stored them in different places, Jesus kicked a soccer ball with his toe and the side of his foot, David tested model airplane designs, Edward engineered a security system for his bedroom, Katheryn switched applesauce for oil in cookies, Iona tried to turn a pickle into a battery, and Annoitte offered her guinea pig orange, green and purple food to determine its color preference.
Julian told me three times he was NOT going to do a science fair project. Yet he showed up in my class last week with his board and some papers to glue on it. I could tell he wanted to do science fair but was scared, SCARED and a bit overwhelmed. I encouraged, even begged, him to NOT give up. He came in after school and we worked on his board together. When he left my room his grin was as big as his entire lower jaw.
On the day of the fair Julian took his board from my room and said, “I am putting this in my locker” as he headed into the hallway. I did not believe him. Science fair boards do not fit into lockers. About 30 minutes into the judging I discovered that Julian had not checked in. WHAT?!??!! I hunted him down and pulled him out of first period. “What?” I asked. “I am not doing it,” he said. I begged and begged and begged. And begged. Pleaded. Offered to get on my knees. He steadfastly refused to present. And he kept saying “I don’t know” to my repeated queries about the location of his board. This went on for about 5 minutes. He tried to go back to class. I stood in front of the door so that he could not enter. No exageration. Five minutes at least. Just as I was about to give up he told me that he had indeed put his board in his locker.
We went to the locker, retrieved the board, and I walked with/escorted him down to the fair. Joe Drago and Phil Davis readily agreed to be his judges and they made sure he had a good experience. [BLESS THEM!] Once again, Julian’s grin was ear to ear.
Angelica was completely scared to present her project. She asked me if she could practice with me before the judges came. Sure. She started but floundered halfway through and ground to a complete halt. I pretended to be her and used her board to present her project to her. Then I had her present to me again. She did a fine job, both with me and the judges. When I asked her about it afterwards, she said she’d had a great experience, that talking to the judges was fun.. Her smile was also ear to ear.
Isabell came up to me grinning. “They liked my project,” she said. When I asked her about talking to the judges she said, “I did not do so well the first time. The second time was okay. But I rocked it the third time.” Sparkling eyes and success for a young lady whose background and home life is harder than most of us will ever experience.
Samuel said, “I accidentally hit a judge.” ??? “I bumped him with my elbow like this,” he said as he demonstrated an elbow bump on my arm. “Do you think he will take points away from my score because I hit him?” he asked in all seriousness.
Amy Buckway (neighbor) told me about an interaction she had with a student. When she said the student said “I don't even want to be here” I knew immediately who she was talking about. Cute Jeanna is another “push me/pull you” [non-verbally asking for help while verbally refusing it] kid whose heart wants to be loved but whose soul is bruised; keeping people away is much safer than letting them in. When Jeanna told Amy she did not want to be there, Amy sat down beside her and asked some more questions. Soon Amy had Jeanna talking freely and even smiling about what she did. It was a big win with a student who rarely receives positive adult attention.
Eron’s experience was a pay-day as well. He did his project on basketball shots, asking the question “Does tucking your elbow in while shooting affect how many shots you make?” (He is passionate about basketball.) He came in after school for help putting his data on a graph. (He has not passed science yet. In class I have to beg him to do his work. The fact that he solicited help is miraculous.) The morning of the fair he did not check in. When asked why, he said he forgot his board at home. Which may be true. It also may be true that he did not have money to buy a board. Or that he was overwhelmed with the idea of making a board…. Anyway, he did not have one. So Rebecca (our super woman secretary without whom the science fair would not be possible) helped him make one. He was so proud of his board. His was also a face-consuming grin.. And he did well; earned 5th place in his category. I believe he floated out of the awards ceremony; I don’t think his feet were touching the ground.
It was a great day for the judges (most of them), for the students (most of them) and for me. Is science fair worth it? RIght now I think so. Please remind me to re-read this post in January 2021.