Monday, January 26, 2009

Science project fail

Well that last post was cheerful, wasn't it? Thank you to everyone who commented or e-mailed with words of support. You all helped me tremendously. I'm feeling a bit better now. I made sure to take some "me" time this weekend, and I fit a run in this morning, even though I felt more like I was swimming, thanks to the fog.

Now if we can go a week without anyone having to have neck surgery, throw up or get pinkeye, I might just make it.

And now for something completely different . . .

The girls' school has an annual science fair, which Ella has never done a project for. Last year her class did a group project, but we didn't do anything solo. This year, the principal tried to cancel the fair, hoping no one would notice. We've had some issues with the principal, who really just needs to retire, and the science fair was, for many, the final straw. The PTA pitched a fit and got permission to hold the fair provided the PTA did all the work. Since I was one of the parents who signed the petition to have the fair, when Ella asked if she could do a project I figured I'd better say yes.

I have bad memories of science projects and science fairs from my school days. Nothing I did for them, except for the potato-powered clock, was ever successful. And the clock only worked because my dad did most of the work.

The town I grew up in hosted the annual county fair, and in conjunction with the fair and 4H, there was always a radish-growing contest. Each year, we'd be sent home from school with radish seeds and instructions for growing them. Part of our grade was based on our green thumbs. Each year, I'd follow the instructions faithfully, and I'd end up with these scrawny, scraggly things that in no way resembled radishes. They'd be put on display along with all of my classmates' radishes - fat, red radishes with big leaves. It was horrifying. I was so glad when I got to middle school and no longer had to grow radishes.

I did another big science project in high school for marine biology class. To study tides and currents, I floated two dozen packets with a pre-stamped postcard asking the finder to send the postcard with information on where and when the packet was found. How many did I get back? Exactly zero. So I had to put together my big display board with my theory and hypothesis and method and no results. Sigh.

So when Ella came home asking about doing a science project, I wasn't exactly enthusiastic. Fortunately, she wanted to do a joint project with a classmate, a classmate whose mother offered to spearhead the project. Score!

The girls decided to grow three kinds of crystals - salt, Epsom salt, and sugar - and observe which kind grew faster. I thought it was a cool project because I had always wanted to grow sugar crystals.

Unfortunately, Ella seems to be cursed with my bad luck with science fair projects. We've only grown salt crystals successfully. We've done two batches of Epsom salt and have gotten nothing but salt water. We did two batches of sugar crystals and have gotten mold. Sigh.

B was adamant that the girls had done the sugar solution incorrectly, so he mixed up a batch last night with Ella and Lily, separate from the science fair stuff, and so far his hasn't worked either. I'm taking an unfair amount of joy from that, given that I've listen to him tell me for two weeks that we had done it wrong the first two times.

Tomorrow Ella and her project partner will be putting together their display boards and getting ready for Wednesday's submission and Thursday's judging. I'm guessing they'll get a participation ribbon.

Next year, I think we'll take advantage of the option to make a model of something rather than do an experiment.

9 comments:

calicobebop said...

Oh brrrr.... I hated Science Fairs too. I always did something remarkable lame because I wan't clever enough to come up with a good hypothesis.

Making models sounds fun! At least you've got a whole year to practice! :)

Miss 376 said...

My youngest sons favourite experiments were to grow mould from various substances. I just used to hope that no one looked behind the chair and found the plate he was growing it on that he had placed under the radiator to keep warm

Cathy said...

that's such a bummer/frustrating it didn't work out as planned--it did sound like a cool experiment!

Becca said...

my sister grew molds one year and won a prize. that's a shoo-in, I am saving the idea for my son's future science fairs cause i mean, who can;t grow mold??? I have some culturing right now in my fridge...

Ann in NJ said...

Crystal growing is harder than you think. You have to dissolve as much as you can of your particular substance - "supersaturate" the solution. And even then it can be iffy. A thought to pad out the project - have them look up crystal structures (how the atoms are arranged), and then make models using toothpicks and gumdrops. Salt in particular is a nice cubic structure, easy to build. We did this for my son's science fair a few years ago, since our crystals weren't great, either.

CK Holder said...

I'm glad you're feeling better. Having kids and all that entails can be so overwhelming. The science project sounds interesting. Perhaps there is something that the girls can express about what they learned from things not going as planned. You know, how they can learn from a failed experiment just as they can learn from a successful one. I liked the idea of re-creating the structure of the crystals.

I'll try to write more comments. I don't mean to be a lurker. ;)

bernthis said...

my school never had science fairs, at least not that I know about hmmmm,,,,, maybe no one bothered to ask me b/c they knew how much I hated science

calicobebop said...

Happy Tuesday! I tagged you on my blog. It's nothing huge, but if you have any spare time (sounds doubtful!) then check it out!

Memarie Lane said...

I have bad science fair memories too. My parents never helped me with anything so I had to try to figure it all out on my own. All the other kids had nice displays, mine looked like it had been pulled from the dumpster. And we had to choose a project from a book, doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? I always just grew sugar crystals.