Saturday, February 05, 2011
Really Bad Science Projects - For Kids
Anna is equal parts princess and mad scientist. Her school's Science Day was fast approaching and we had to think of an experiment for her to present to her classmates. She had to come up with a hypothesis, and then produce a poster board of her expectations and findings. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a greater expectation of parent involvement in the States? Maybe things have changed in the UK, but I know that when I was growing up I didn't have to 'present my findings', do homework, or even do show and tell. Sometimes I wonder who is really going through Kindergarten.
Back to Anna the Scientist. My Mum and Dad recently bought Anna a National Trust 'bug hunting kit' - perfect for a junior entomologist, but on reflection, not quite so perfect for California even though she absolutely loves it. For a start, we have to use it under heavy supervision, as there's more than just lowly Mr. Woodlouse scuttling around in our back yard. A few months ago I spotted a giant black widow spider having a casual stroll towards our laundry room. Then, when Anna did manage to collect a fierce but harmless looking centipede, she accidentally left him in full sun in her magnifying tube - a tube that now has a perfect blackened centipede shape seared into its base.
We were casting around for something to display, something age-appropriate that didn't involve death or maiming to either us or a poor harmless creature. We were greatly helped in our quest for the perfect 5-year old science experiment by this book from my brother and sister-in-law.
Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do (Usborne Activities)
Anna obviously wants to do ALL the experiments, *right now*, but the one she picked for the Science Fair had the perfect combination of 5-year old girl science, and dramatic show-and-tell effect. 'Magic Flowers', or basically - when you add food dye to the water of white flowers, they will change colour.
We documented the full scientific process, LK decided they should dress appropriately:
Anna wrote 'Magic Flowers' in giant coloured letters, and carefully copied out her 'hypothesis'. It was going to be genius.
Except, when we all woke up the next morning, the flowers were still pristine and snowy white. Epic fail. We considered dunking them in the dye so Anna had at least something to show. In the end we decided that would be cheating, even though when LK arrived at Anna's school and saw 5 year olds introducing Powerbook presentations on how they split they atom at home using some safety scissors and sticky back plastic he was a tad pissed off. Or rather, he thought 'shit, my wife is going to kill me'.
He later said that he was proud that Anna's project was all her own work. So what if the flowers we'd used had failed to suck up any water. I must have accidentally bought dead or irradiated flowers - who knows. He said that the kids all had a wonderful time, and had some brilliant ideas to showcase. Like the kid standing next to Anna whose hypothesis was 'does a nail rust faster in water, salty water or air?'. I said that sounded like a great idea. He said yes, if you don't use galvanized nails that is. Anna, with her pristine white flowers was standing next to a boy with pristine unrusted nails. Perfect.