Science Fair Is No Picnic

I dread the beginning of school for many reasons. Homework and all of its pencil throwing and tears. A dozen checks to the school’s PTA. And of course, my babies are growing up.

But every September what I dread more than any of it is science fair.

My kids have barely made friends in their new classes when they bring home science fair planners. Due dates loom. Having my kids choose a project that makes sense is like trying to give a cat a bath. Every year my son wants to throw eggs at something and see if they’ll break. Since my kids attend a science and technology school, the standard moldy bread or using a lemon to charge a battery just doesn’t cut it. Smashing eggs is kind of on that list too. Students actually have to test a theory and prove or disprove it. They need controls and variables, reasons the results would turn out differently during each trial of the procedure. I can barely understand it all myself, much less explain it to my kids apparently.

Last year’s thirteen weeks of due dates, arguments, testing, and scrambling made me swear we would get ahead of the game this year. Yet here we are with only days left to decide the kids’ projects. Parents and children in this house can never agree on a project. From the start, the experience is doomed.

My stubborn son didn’t take our advice last year on one of the many projects we suggested, something easily tested, something that could be backed up with research. His only requirement for a project: smashing something. I somehow doubt that is how scientists go about proving the link between how flu germs spread and the way we cover our coughs. He chose to build a Lego car and see whether an egg is safer in the back or front seat. Then he thoroughly enjoyed smashing up eggs as he tested his hypothesis.

egg car

What an eggy mess.

His project simply didn’t work. And there was little research to be found.

Meanwhile, my daughter had her first project and tested the permanence of permanent markers on various surfaces. This project met our approval because it was easy to prove and test, though I didn’t realize how many loads of wash this project would require from me.

permanent marker project

Guess what? It stays on fabric, washes off plastic.

Honestly, I think the kids would benefit from a project that would reveal useful information. How much soap is necessary to remove the odor from feet that have never been properly washed? Or which hand-washing method is more effective: putting soap on your palm and blasting it away as soon as you turn the water on, or running your hands quickly through a drip of water with no soap? I think the kids may be surprised at those results.

And really, wouldn’t parents want to know if the tone of their voice has any effect on the results when asking their kids to do something? Or how much repetition is necessary before a child really gets it through his thick skull that you are not doing the science fair project for him?

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38 Comments

Filed under Can't Get a Break

38 responses to “Science Fair Is No Picnic

  1. I am so so glad we don’t have Science Fair here in the UK. There is enough to deal with as it is! And, no, I don’t do projects for Cherub, nor homework. Timer is set, I walk away, timer goes off, homework is over. If he needs help, he knows where to ask…

    • I really hate it. I should love it but I don’t. My son has had to do one every year since kindergarten and I’ve had enough! So many battles. They’ve since changed the rules and the kids start a little later. The kids mostly do them themselves but they do need a little help. Thirteen weeks to go!

  2. This summer we had 3 science projects (for one child, my other is only 3 years old yet) a Math project (May as well been science, testing and predicting weather patterns) and of course an English essay (my son just turned 10!) I can completely validate your feelings. We have our big science fair in May, so even though it’s far enough away, I still dread it! Good Luck! 🙂

    • Projects in general are a downer because they are on top of other work. But I find this one particularly hard because I’m not skilled enough to help! Sounds like your kids have some challenging work as well! Math? I would cry.

  3. We don’t have a science fair but now that my son is at junior school (he’s 9) they assign a project every other half term so 3 in total for the year. The kids are supposed to spend an hour or two a week on project work but my son can unusually manage five minutes before he “needs a break”. We’re only two weeks into the term and I’m dreading the projects already! X

  4. i’m just happy now that we don’t have any science fair. good luck!

  5. I’m sure I did science fair projects during my formative years, but I think I repressed them . . . In regards to your son’s project, I’m surprised the chickens didn’t band together, form a union, and demand kinder treatment for the eggs of their labor. 🙂 If they were organic or grain fed, that was one expensive project.

    • What I really should have talked about was the year he tested whether the number of taste buds a person has relate to whether a person is a picky eater or not. I can’t tell you how many tongues I had to put blue food coloring on and then count buds on because he couldn’t really see, all during cold season. Ugh! It was gross. Neat project but not for the weak.

  6. Science fair projects are one of the many projects that should be done at school ONLY. That ensures that all kids have an equal opportunity and that parents don’t (1) do them for their kids; (2) kill their kids in the process.

    • Spoken like someone who’s been there, Elyse. Those are fabulous ideas. I see projects that definitely look like they were done by the parents and projects that look like the kids had no guidance whatsoever by any adult. Those are the ones that make me sad. I don’t need to do my kids’ projects but I do wish some of those kids had some help.

  7. Ha! My kids’ school has what we call a “Learning Fair.” They can learn anything about anything, which explains why my daughter and her friend did their project together on Spongebob.

    Yes. A team project on Spongebob. As much as I’m afraid this project actually lowered both their IQs, at least we had none of that stress from your kids’ school!

    • At home, my kids will research and do their own projects. The minute something is assigned, it becomes unbearable and they lose interest. They should do a science fair project on that!

      SpongeBob! That would keep kids interested.

  8. I think these projects sound cool though not as practical. Do the children get into it? It sounds like a good idea though I don’t blame you for feeling pressured over it.

  9. Lisa

    I loathe science fair projects. We haven’t had to start them …yet. I think its just the teachers way of getting back at us for having to deal with our kids. I have yet to meet a parent or child who actually has fond memories of the fair.

    • My one science fair was in 7th grade. My dad did the project because it involved soldering. We stayed up late doing it. I didn’t really understand it. The day of the fair two boys in my class got in a fight and rolled around and busted up a bunch of the projects. Fun times.

  10. Sandy

    I love your blog. I didn’t realize I knew you until about a month or 2 ago. I laugh my butt off at your stories. So, so true! I am a fan!

  11. Whoa, we have never had the pleasure of enduring any science projects so far. I’m sure it’s looming on the horizon. Sigh.

  12. I did a post long ago called “The Science-is-not-Fair.” I feel your pain. But I definitely think you should promote the suggestions in your last paragraph!

  13. Last year, my son was required to not only do science fair at his own school, but because he won first place, he had to go on to a state-wide competition at an engineering college not close to our home.
    Everything had to be in by 5 pm, so we got four kids from the district school and flew home, me grabbing the folders of (facts and thesis and research), my husband carrying the rather cumbersome and gigantic (and heavy) plexi glass and wooden box containing the experiment, my son’s only job was to grab the enormous 3-way board showing the pictures and information about each step of his experiment.
    We did not think we could possibly make it to this college on time. We sped.

    We were a sad but hurried trio. We whipped into the parking lot of the college, found a space, carried our cargo up five flights, stood in line for an hour to sign in.

    And then we realized it.

    My son had grabbed the wrong board. A spare board. A COMPLETELY BLANK 3-way board.

    • OH! The horror! I hope that one day you can all laugh about it, but I know it was not funny at the time. That’s great that he won first place at his school. That’s something!

  14. I loved this post, especially your sons project of the egg being better in the front or backseat…lol! We don’t have science fair, thank god! Science was not my favorite class in school so I don’t think I would be much of any help to my children in that field. Thanks for Sharing! Your post are always interesting to read!

    • I was never good in science so I’m not much help to them. That’s why these projects are such torture for me! It’s like I know their project idea isn’t quite right but I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. Thankfully my husband is much better at this stuff.

  15. My son just started kindergarten. I was warned by neighbors that there would be homework even in K, so it hasn’t seemed too bad (yet). Just printing and counting and coloring. I dread the days of science fairs.

  16. Oh I can relate to this….. unfortunately, in our household, its my husband who really gets stuck into projects……. so much so that the children often hand in his master-piece (with a crayon scribble he reluctantly allowed them to add at the last min)

  17. Try nail polish remover – it generally removes permanent marker on fabrics!

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