12 science fairs, 12 lessons learned
This year marks my 12th Clear Creek science fair.
Don't take that to mean I'm a helicopter parent, hovering over my young scientist or pushing him into sophisticated experiments he can't possibly understand. (A 10-year-old uncovering design flaws in gaming software? C'mon. I detect a NASA engineer on the premises.)
But even now that my high schooler is judging grade-school fairs himself, I always get dragged into these projects somehow, whether it's an after-hours run for ink cartridges or a telephone survey of stores that should know by now how many display boards to stock. Colored boards, not white. Foam, not cardboard.
After all these years, I've learned important lessons parents should know before that first entry in the logbook is made:
1. Indoor composting attracts fruit flies, whether fruit flies have anything to do with your experiment or not.
2. Thermometers used for taking children's temperatures are useless for recording soil temperatures that start much, much lower than a human body's. So don't go buying a bunch of them.
3. The hardest part of the whole thing is coming up with an idea that hasn't been done to death, and it's nothing less than cruel for a teacher to add on the extra requirement that the student's topic must somehow benefit mankind. You know who you are, Mrs. X.
4. Even the most reasonable science teacher may become peeved if your child wins at the district fair but forgets to pick up his display afterward and it gets thrown out by the cleaning crew and there's no experiment to take to the regional fair.
5. Whatever you do, don't let your child propose an experiment involving mold or vertebrates. The paperwork will bury you. And doesn't it seem obvious that home experiments involving mosquito larvae could backfire in a big way?
6. Math may be the easiest science-fair category to score a win, because hardly anyone enters it. But probability questions are way more complicated than you think, and grown-up mathematicians actually write papers on the likelihood of landing on a particular property in Monopoly. They have graphs and everything.
7. You can complete an online statistics course for college credit in the time it takes to play Monopoly 25 times. And playing Monopoly 25 times will annihilate any desire to ever play Monopoly again. Ever. So stop asking me play.
8. A science fair display board can in fact be put together from start to finish the morning it's due, thanks to 24-hour Wal-Marts.
9. No juvenile male is capable of affixing stick-on letters to the display board in a straight line. Not even close. It takes a scrapbooker's steady hand and bag of tricks. Or you can suggest your kid go for a deliberately "wacky" letters look.
10. The judges don't hold a disproven hypothesis against the student. I even suspect it might help get an experiment noticed. You know, someone should do an experiment on whether experiments are more likely to win when it turns out the kids guessed wrong.
11. Years and years of seeing other children's battery-comparison experiments have led me to favor CVS batteries. There are other brands that perform very well, too, but we're a frugal family. Now there's an experiment that benefits mankind.
12. You know that award Clear Creek ISD gives students who enter the science fair for all 13 years of their education? That's just got to be the hardest-won one of them all.
See winners of this year's CCISD science fair.
Share your own science fair nightmares by commenting below.
Local Advertising by PaperG