It’s Not Rocket Science…Or is It?

Phew! It’s over.  No, I’m not talking about the holiday season.  I’m referring to the 8th Grade Science Fair project.

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.


About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at

Posted on January 6, 2012, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Ooh I always hated science while going to school! My parents NEVER helped me with ANY school project; your daughter is so lucky! I was always told, “It’s your assignment and your grade; earn it!” Then I would get grounded because said assignment brought me home a “C” on my report card! D’oh!

    Science is just one of those things that I believe I will hate till my dying day! (It didn’t help matters that I was the ONLY girl in my science/physics class in high school! Introvert here – especially around guys! God help me!) Glad those days are over! I’m not a parent, either, so I haven’t had to re-enter that dreadful science experiment world again!

    Congrats on achieving that awful assignment! Hope your daughter appreciates all of your headaches, err I mean hard work! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    May God bless,
    Trisha Wilson

    • I’m not that fond of science either! And, I guess I just don’t like the encroachment of my free time that these projects take up–even it’s just driving to the store to get the supplies. I was always a believer that the kids should do their projects on their own–like my parents–but then you see the other projects so obviously done by parents that I almost felt sorry for my kids. But they always did their best. My daughter wanted help with her board because she’d left it until the last minute, but she spent the day in the basement doing it alone while her friends were at the movies. Hopefully she learned a valuable lesson about planning!

  2. Tracy,
    Hold onto that magnet and scale–we haven’t done the 8th grade science project yet–and that sounds like a good one!

    I can’t believe they gave her an assignment to complete over the break! Somebody should have gotten coal in their stocking!

  3. Oh Tracy,

    SO glad all that has faded to the dim recesses of my memory. Now I get to giggle, when my daughter calls with stories like yours!

    Mother’s revenge — hang in there, if you survive till then, it’s wonderful!

    Great post.

  4. When Lyle was in 6th grade, it seemed like we had a project every week. Thank goodness the zealots have calmed down.

    Like you, I don’t want to help, because I think that defeats the whole point of a learning experience. We keep a stash of foam and poster board on hand and wish them luck.

    • I’m hoping this will be it, but my son just reminded me of the castle project in geometry. Seriously, the last week of school he had to build a castle using 8 of the different shapes. I really wish we’d kept it. It could save a lot of heart ache in May. Unfortunately, they have the same teacher and five years isn’t long enough for her to forget. 😦

  5. I loved this post, Tracy. It made me laugh out loud, though I’m sure it wasn’t funny to you at the time. My daughter just signed up for one of those science projects and I’m wondering how much we will be involved. And they do the presentation and competition about an hour away from home in April! We’ll see how that goes. What happened to you sounds like something in a movie!

    • She had to present it today, but lucky for her, the first panel came to her school. Apparently, she has to present it separately to each of the five judges reviewing it today. Fortunately, this may be where she excels. She anchors the morning announcements and is used to schmoozing. 🙂

  6. Jamie Marchione


    This is too funny! If I had not been doing almost the same thing a half mile down the road from you I would actually find it even more comical. I always enjoy hearing from my friends who don’t have children, or who have young children, that have never experienced what this is actually like. You know the ones…”I would not do a thing to help, it is THEIR project.” “My mother never helped me.” Yes friends, that may be the case but I guarantee you that anyone that has dared to speak has never looked at the actual requirements for these projects. There is not a chance that any child in today’s school system could possibly get away with growing a lima bean in a ziploc bag with a wet papertowel and call it a science fair project. Oh no, we must invest ridiculous amounts of money in research, tools, supplies and gas to obtain said items. That being said, I couldn’t be happier to see the wheat grass, radishes, and cat nip leave my kitchen. God bless our teachers (my mother is one by the way) but if I never see another Science Fair project in my life I will be a happy woman!

  7. Tracy, I loved your account of the school project. It’s been so many years since my children had projects to do, I’ve forgotten all the effort mom and dad must put in on the child’s behalf.

    Thank you for the fun post!

  8. Sheila,
    I can’t wait for the days when this is behind us. Of course, I just spent the entire day getting my son ready to go back to college which is a project itself. I guess it truly never ends. 🙂

  9. Welcome back from you Christmas break, Tracy. The science project was invented by a confirmed bachelor who actually hates all parents! My son, the brilliant one, made the top science school in the country, he also made the top music school. Knowing that he had never actually completed a sceience project on his own, I thought he’d be better off singing his way through high school, circa “Fame” …

    Revenge is sweet when served up cold and he now has boy/girl twins and a younger boy. The two boys are the ying/yang of their father, my granddaughter happily takes after her mother.

    I spent my entire break reading the kid’s facebook pages, thinking of my son doing endless projects with the kids and felt vindicated 🙂

  10. Oh that made me laugh, Tracy, that was hysterical! And not because I’m laughing at your pain, but because I live it every other month or so. We have one in our kitchen right now, that I’m sure I will see more of before the weekend is done.


  11. Good luck Sharla!! Enjoy your daughter’s birthday while bonding over the project. 🙂

  12. LOL! I swear every time that I will NOT help my kids with their school science projects because, after all, it’s THEIR project, right? And if the teacher assigned it to them, I’m sure they’re supposed to be able to handle it on their own, right?

    Wrong. Dad (our resident science guy) always ends up pitching in and honestly, I’m not sure who’s more grateful, the kids or the teacher! (Have you seen some of the stuff these kids come up with on their own?) 🙂 But that’s life!

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