I hate science fair.
I used to think that I liked it. That was when we were at a school that didn’t have one.
I used to think that Science Fair was to learn about science, do something with your hands and brain, and then learn to communicate about your findings. Be creative. Have fun. We didn’t do science fair at my school. I thought it would be great.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
First, science projects are lame. My favorite science was chemistry. Blowing things up. Burning chemicals. Seeing the colors. Smelling the esters. Building a distilling apparatus and having some powdery substance at the end. Or, even better, separating liquids. Connecting the Lewis Dot Structures. It was a wonderful, hands-on thing.
But you look for science fair projects and they are in two categories–boring biology projects or building things.
The first is–well–boring. Growing plants. Growing germs. Growing plankton. Nothing blows up. Great for little kids.
The second has a huge cool potential. Except that if you are building something–like a circuit–you might actually learn something. And that is NOT the purpose of a science fair project.
A successful science fair project has four main ingredients.
- A graph. You need to measure something so you can graph it. You can’t measure something you build.
- A hypothesis. You need to work the Scientific Method. This is the Holy Grail of science fair. #1 is directly related.
- A teacher. The teacher has to be of no help, patronizing, mean, and anti-intellectual.
- Much yelling. There are absolutely NO good science fair projects. There are no projects of any interest whatsoever to the kid. No matter how you try to sell it.
So after not picking a project, complaining about the lack of support from #3, and refusing to do work. And after going around and around through crummy web sites with science projects perfect for 7-9 year olds when we need an high school honors level project AND a middle school project. And after going through all the ideas with potential and recognizing time and again there was nothing to frickin’ MEASURE, the science fair projects have been selected.
The abstracts have been written. The high-level procedures have been done. Some of the materials have been ordered. After all the shock and awe to get this far, it seems like we should be done.
But then you look at building the experiment, trying to control the insurgent students (aka the 15-year old and the 12-year old) who at times seem intent on sabotaging their own best interests, and a look at the additional resources–time, brain, and materials–required for success, I almost feel like pulling out now. But no, I need to be fully committed to see these projects through their bitter ends.
Maybe I should shut up. At least our experiments have a good chance of success–it could be worse.