Checking out the Science Fair

The day of the big Science Fair has come and gone.  Judging by the high quality of the projects, a lot of work went into this day from every child that participated (and often from their parents too!).

Let us give you some insight into what went on in our house in preparation for the big day.

We will Start with Addie.

“Mom, I want to make an erupting volcano”.

“Honey, that’s great, but I’m afraid there will be a lot of volcanoes there.”

“Ok, how about an UNDERWATER volcano?”.

A few days of much excitement from all sides…wild ideas are thrown out.  A water-filled aquarium, spray foam for the eruption, actual fish swimming around….  These ideas were not just from Addie.  Scott was particularly inventive, and I had to keep reminding him that this needed to be something that she could actually do mostly by herself, and anyway, our access to an acetelene torch and electronic volcano detonators was strictly limited.

Finally, we worked our way into a series of 4 stages of the underwater volcano culminating with a volcanic island, sans water, laid out in a cardboard box with the explanations of each stage above.  We mixed the clay for the volcanos (simply flour and salt), and she set to work creating volcanos with a little input about size and placement from me.  Addie and Ender both helped in the building, and when it was all over, she had some really nice looking volcanos.  Both kids painted the box to make it look like water, and Addie carefully printed each step and placed them above, and made little signs within the box describing different elements.  I did consult and advise, and I did cut out the letters for the title for her, but she really did most of the work on her own and was quite proud of the results.  I’m sure you’ll agree that it turned out splendidly.

Addie's Underwater Volcano Display

Ender, on the other hand, was less “into” it.  At 6 years of age, though he loves science, he’s certainly not in the mood to write about it.  We began with “I want to mix water together and see what I get”.  We tried to pull something out of that with colors and such, but it quickly became pretty apparent he just wanted to play in water and make a mess and call that his science project.  While I’m sure there are a lot of scientific principals involved in that, we were at a loss to make an easily understandable experiment from water and mess.

Then, Inspiration stuck.  We took our trip to Delhi, to the Taj Mahal, and had the opportunity to take one of the classic goofy tourist photos.  You can stand on a platform and put out your hand, and the photographer can position himself so that it looks as if you are touching the top of the Taj Mahal.  Why don’t we take that picture and explain the phenomenon?  While water and mess were still more appealing, we got him to agree that this was pretty cool too.

The rest of it was not so simple.  It was decided that just that picture wouldn’t be enough.  I scoured the internet and came up with the “see this little person standing in my hand” photo, AND a cool printable room to construct that made it look like two same objects are different sizes when they aren’t.  The whole thing could be titled “Optical Illusions”, and he could explain them.  I showed it all to him and he sounded agreeable, and he loves taking pictures.

The day of the great “Addie is standing in my hand” picture-taking was a lazy Saturday.  Knowing that he had to start working on this because time was running short, I made the mistake of pulling him away from cartoons for the photo shoot.  The grumbling began, and continued throughout the photo-taking, with him looking angry in each picture while his sister gleefully “danced” on the palm of his hand. Luckily, we got the shot after a few takes, and he could go back to his cartoons, as we didn’t have a printer anyway.

Yes, I know we made a mistake with that window reflection in back

Daddy was kind enough to get the pictures printed for him, and to cut out and assemble the “magic room” as it was too complicated for Ender to do.  In fact, at one point it seemed to be too complicated for us to do as well, but we got there in the end.  Ender was quite happy with the little room, and liked the way that the objects appeared smaller on the right than on the left.

I did the assembly of the actual project board, but required that he at least sit with me and apply the glue for me.  Then came the big fight…

He needed to do a little write-up of each picture.  Each one required no more than 2 sentences, but you’d have thought he was being asked to rewrite the entire dictionary.  His hand hurt.  It was too hard to write.   He was tired.  He didn’t want to use pen.  The list of ills went on and on.  He just sat there whining under his breath in that incredibly irritating way until I finally lost all composure when he threw his pen to the floor on purpose for the 3rd time, whining all the way.  I took the project board, threw IT to the floor, and said “You don’t want to do it?  OK!  Then you won’t have a project.”  The previously irritating whining ramped up to full-blown howling, and cries of “I want a project, I want a project…” filled the room.  After that, things progressed much quicker.  The sentences amazingly got written in less time than it had taken for him to sit there whining about it, and he helped place them on the board and glue the letters on.

The final project looked like this:

Yes, I know, I should have let him go with water and mess.  Live and learn.  Though, truth be told, I know he wouldn’t have wanted to write about that either in the end.

Anyway, both projects were a big hit at the fair, and both children were very proud of them.  I think we all learned a lot from this experience…  Addie knows how an island is formed, Ender has learned about optical illusions, and Mom and Dad have learned that they don’t like dealing with a  crabby, angry, unwilling 6 year old. (Ok, we probably knew that already).

Next year, you will easily be able to find Ender’s project… just look for the one titled “Water and Mess”.

3 thoughts on “They Blinded Us With Science

  1. avatar

    Addie’s volcanoes tell how an island is born with refreshing clarity. I seem to remember the island explanation taking pages to cover in a fourth grade textbook. Also, Addie’s printing caught my eye…very impressive.

    Are you sure Ender wasn’t using his awesome mental powers to hold Addie in the palm of his hand?

  2. Pingback: volcano science fair project for kids | Digg hot tags

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