It’s Not Rocket Science…Or is It?
I have a confession to make: I don’t like school projects. Yeah, I know, bad mom. But seriously, these projects are meant for the child to do on their own. Of course we all know that never happens. Perhaps I should have done what several of my daughter’s friend’s parents do with school projects: just recycle one from an older sibling. Sadly, my conscience is too queasy for that.
It started out well. We—I decided to ride shotgun on the project selection lest she pick something too complicated—picked out a pretty easy experiment using cereal and other household items. I also put my foot down and told her “no groups”, thus eliminating the coordination of schedules of multiple teenage girls who can’t drive yet. Off to a great start. (cue the ominous music) The experiment involved grinding up breakfast cereal, adding a little water to it and putting it into a plastic bag. Then, she’d skim a magnet over the bag to gather the iron, weigh the iron and compare it to the label on the box to determine if the label was accurate or not. Simple, huh? Bill Nye the Science Guy even had a You-tube video with the how-to’s. Then comes experiment day. Now, in the Solheim house, I get all the written or creative projects. Dad gets all the messy, tactile ones. That’s just the way it is. (I should mention here that my husband’s involvement is risky because he’s a bit like Tim Allen’s Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor character and many of the projects end up being somewhat souped up pretty quickly. Just ask our neighbors about the labyrinth of gutters that graced our backyards in preparation for the AP Physics boat races!)
The first step was to grind up the cereal in the food processor. Tim—I mean Dad—insisted he needed “more power” to properly grind the cereal and our coffee grinder was quickly sacrificed. Then came the little problem of the magnet. It seemed the craft store magnet I’d purchased for a few dollars wasn’t strong enough—can you hear the chest pounding and grunting? So, off to his contractor supply store he went for “more power” in a magnet. Twenty dollars later, we have a magnet that must be kept at least fifty feet away from all the computers in the house and perhaps cell phones, too!
Okay, so six different kinds of cereals are ground and bagged: the iron has been dragged to one corner of the bag and it’s ready to be weighed. Hold on! It seems my little Weight Watcher’s scale only weighs in grams and the iron needs to be measured in milligrams to correspond to the food label. Holy snot! Two pairs of eyes look accusingly at me. And now you see why I hate school projects. How is this my fault? Shouldn’t she have checked this out for herself? It’s her grade, after all.
No problem, we’ll just call a chemist friend to see if he might have a scale that weighs in milligrams. The Science Fair Goddess is smiling down upon us because he does, but we have to wait until after the Packers school the Giants to use it (yes, we started at 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon). We ask if we can just pick it up and use it here since we’re already set up, only to be told his scale retails for over $5,000 and it really shouldn’t be moved. Panic sets in because any work done in a separate lab other than the student’s kitchen has to be pre-approved and “signed off” on in advance. My daughter is hyperventilating at this point. I just want the whole mess out of my kitchen so I can cook dinner!
Amazon to the rescue. Fifty bucks later, I arranged for a scale calibrated in milligrams to be overnighted to our house. I’ve also probably gotten myself on some DEA list because, really, who buys a scale in milligrams besides drug dealers? Crisis averted. And the best part: I somehow was able to scurry off to Bunko while she and Dad redid the experiment a few nights later with the new scale.
At this point, it’s all over except for the big display board. Of course, she waited until the final day of Christmas break to complete it. It’s only due the day they get back! But her board rocks. Sadly, she doesn’t have much by way of creative skills—I have the test scores to prove it—but she does have her father’s Tool Man mentality: “Go big or go home!” I doubt anyone else’s board has flashing lights and removable magnets. 🙂
And that’s how I spent my Christmas vacation.
What about you? Any great school project stories out there? I’d love to commiserate with you.