Whoever named the annual gathering of project boards advertising uninspired experiments a Science “Fair” must not have gotten out much. There is absolutely nothing festive about getting together a Science Fair project – particularly when you are the parent, not the student. This is definitely one of those homework assignments that can rip families apart. Before I taught Gifted and Talented students, I was a 5th grade Science teacher. After 3 years of Science Fairs, I realized that the only people who seemed to learn anything from these events were the parents – and the primary topic they learned was the number of cuss words that are applicable to lengthy mandatory projects assigned to students to complete at home.
Of course, it is only karma that, years later, my own daughter should bring home a Science Fair packet accompanied by her own surly attitude. I did my best to disguise my loathing for such projects, but her eye-rolling ensued before we could even start brainstorming possible topics. I tried my “go to” teacherly advice, which is to find a way to make it relevant, and suggested that she somehow incorporate her love of all products Bath and Bodyworks into her experiment. This resulted in more eye-rolling, but I allowed it to percolate for a few days. When the deadline for a topic loomed, Dimples finally decided that my idea was, indeed, usable, if not an excellent one. She chose to investigate the use of hand sanitizer in the prevention of bread mold.
Every other day, Dimples diligently (with my nagging) took pictures of her three pieces of bread – one in a ziploc bag, one exposed and treated with hand sanitizer, and one control. After two weeks, the only thing that had happened was the two outside the plastic had gotten hard as a rock. Since then – and it has been 36 days – there has been absolutely no change, including zero mold growth.
My conclusion from this experiment is that, from now on, upon purchasing a new bag of bread, I will immediately remove it from its manufacturer’s bag (which apparently promotes mold growth at the record speed of three days) and dispense the pieces of bread throughout the household to be collected whenever it is time to make a sandwich. They might collect a bit of dust, but at least they will be mold-free. And, although I like my bread to smell nice, I will probably not be adding drops of hand sanitizer to each slice because I think that mustard might taste a tad better.
If I had to do my own project board on this whole experience, here is how it would look:
Topic: What is the Fastest Way to Drive a Parent Crazy?
Hypothesis: If a teacher assigns my daughter a Science Fair Project and I attempt to help her complete it because she has no idea what to do, then I will end up in a rubber room within 24 hours of her having completed the project.
Materials: A mandatory Science Fair project, a 9 year old daughter, a frenzied mother who once taught science, a supportive but inexperienced father
Procedure: 1. Teacher assigns project. 2. Daughter says she does not understand what to do. 3. Mother tries to help with project. 4. Daughter says mother does not know what the heck she is doing. 5. Mother says, “Fine. Do it yourself.” 6. Daughter wails. 7. Mother caves, and helps, attempting to be cheerful while sullen daughter deftly pushes mother to the brink of insanity.
Results: Project gets completed, and mother is checked into an institution.
Conclusion: My hypothesis was correct, as supported by the data, and the fact that I am currently typing this on a rubber keyboard at the Home for Mothers Driven Insane by Their Children.