Thursday, April 14, 2011

 

Scenes from the Science Fair

- The Boy and The Girl both did science fair projects again this year. TB did one on paper airplanes, testing whether the number of folds in the design of the plane affected the distance it would fly. (It didn’t.) TG did one on whether all liquids weigh the same. She poured vegetable oil, water, and molasses into a jar, and noted that the molasses sank to the bottom while the oil rose to the top. We also discovered that molasses pours faster than the cliche would lead you to believe.

- Last year was the first year that this school did a science fair. The turnout then was modest, and many of the projects fairly weak. This year, though, you could see that the kids got the hang of it. The cafeteria was filled, and there were so many parents and kids that it was hard to walk through. It did my heart good to see the parents and kids step up for science.

- The obligatory baking soda volcanoes were out in force, as were the butterfly displays. Other than TB’s and TG’s, the highlight had to be one on “Glucosamine and Logan.” Logan is a dog. He’s a family pet, and apparently pretty old. The vet told the family that they should switch Logan’s treats from Milk Bones to Healthy Hips with Glucosamine. They did, and for five weeks they tracked Logan’s ability to climb the stairs without help. Happily, Logan’s progress was good, and they’ve decided to keep Logan on the new treats. The display board featured a photo of Logan looking resigned. It was hard to resist saying “awww...”

- Overheard while walking between displays: “Never play basketball on a trampoline.” Okay then.

- Thanks to her petition drive, TW has become a local celebrity. All of the teachers know her at this point, and so do a lot of the Moms. (I’m known, if at all, as “TW’s husband.”) She already has over 700 signatures on her petition, and she has an appointment to hand-deliver it to our state senator next week. Earlier this week she spoke at a school board meeting and stole the show. (She showed far better political instincts than the Board member who addressed us, her assembled constituents, as "you people.") It’s fun to see her on such a roll.

- We learned of yet another girl who has a crush on TB. Bless him, he doesn’t have a clue. Take your time, kid...

- After the fair, we stopped by a local ice cream place to celebrate. It was too cold to eat outside, so we got it to go. As she prepared to climb into the back seat, holding her ice cream, I reminded TG to be careful not to drop it. She replied brightly, “You can hopefully count on me!” I’m considering framing that over my desk.

Comments:
Here is a science fair project for next year (my dad seriously offered this as an option when I was in 7th grade):

Station yourself outside of a Victoria's Secret or Frederick's of Hollywood.

Count the number of people that walk by; seperate by gender. Then count the number of men vs number of women who look into the store.

I think that year I did a price comparison study between local grocery stores.
 
Teach TG the difference between weight and density.
 
Thank you Al. I agree completely.
 
Al, don't get so hung up on the proper word. TG is in first grade. If she wants to test the weight of a liquid, then she's gonna test the weight of a liquid.
 
Don't get hung up on the word? It's a SCIENCE fair! Shouldn't part of that experience be learning the correct terminology? And the age old joke, "Which weights more, a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks?" is an elementary age joke. She's not to young to learn the difference. If she is only ready to study weight, then the project should have used a scale and been about weight. Although then you would open up the discussion about weight versus mass but I think that would raise fewer hackles from the science folks.
 
Drat, that should be ...not too young...

Sorry.
 
Baking soda volcanoes and other imaginary creatures
Posted by Dictyranger on April 15, 2011 at 8:45am EDT
Speaking as a scientist and veteran science fair judge, I would love to see teachers explicitly forbid baking soda volcanoes at science fairs.

Objection 1: The core of science is hypothesis testing. What hypothesis is being tested here? What's the experimental design? What new thing do we learn at the end of the experiment? Answer: diddlysquat.

Objection 2: Baking soda volcanoes are not science--they're special effects. Volcanoes do not erupt due to water leaking into giant underground reservoirs of sodium bicarbonate. By building one, you don't learn jack about how a volcano actually works. All you learn is how to make miniature trees out of toothpicks and cotton balls.

I did, however, once judge a science fair at a Catholic school where one of the students was clearly the Problem Child in class: untucked shirt, mussed hair, tie loose. His poster, which was scrawled on a cut-up box, was on how to determine which kind of cereal stayed crunchier in milk. It had excellent controls (he even ran another experiment comparing milk to water!) and had a reasonable and testable hypothesis, which was that sugar-coated cereals would stay crunchier. I gave him a good score. Sister Drill Sergeant was not pleased. :)
 
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