Just after Ari started back to school this last January, his teacher handed out a piece of paper outlining this year’s school wide science fair project. I’ve talked before about what a wonderful and lasting effect the science fair had on my own life so I was excited to finally have the chance to share that joy with my own school-aged kid.
Olivia talked a few weeks ago about helping a fifth grader with his science project. Just to help any mom’s who may still be grappling with their own fears of science, here’s another story–how Ari and I put together his project.
The real problem we (I) had was coming up with a question worth answering. When I originally broached the subject, my ever-so-typical boy threw out the idea of farts, and testing what foods made him the fartiest. I’ll be honest–I thought it was a pretty cool project, but I wasn’t so sure his teachers would feel as I did. So we decided to do that one at home, and think of something else to take to school.
It took three weeks to come up with a new idea; I kept waiting for that spur-of-the-moment question; I kept listening for Ari to muse over some aspect of his daily life. Finally, as Ari was helping me wrap a birthday gift for Joe, that special moment happened. We were trying to wrap a box with a brown paper bag, and discovered that the tape we were using was horrible at holding it together. I think it took us about 18 pieces. At some point Ari said “I wonder if we have any stickier tape we could use.”
Choirs of angels sang hallelujah over our heads. A ray of light descended on our hunched forms as we wrapped the gift. It had happened. The “I Wonder” statement had been spoken, and we had our project…. because as you know, a good “I wonder” statement can always be turned into a good science fair project.
Since Ari’s only in kindergarten I wanted his project to have a real life application. I wanted him to see how the scientific method worked in everyday life before we hit up any hard science. Trying to find a stickier tape to wrap future birthday presents was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Plus it was a simple enough concept that Ari was able to design the project all by himself with only minimal instruction from me. Also very important.
Here’s what he came up with:
I want to know what tape is the stickiest.
Duct Tape is the stickiest.
Step 1: Gather tape.
Step 2: Stick it to stuff.
Step 3: Pull tape off.
Step 4: Fill out data sheet (seen below).
Step 5: Add up points. (I had him add them himself on the abacus).
Step 6: Highest number wins.
I was right. Duct Tape is the stickiest.
Note Ari’s unique way of interpreting his data. Winner = Smily face and star. Looser = Frowny face and black rain cloud. Middle = Neutral face and a guy scratching his head.
This was simple enough that it was almost all Ari. I guided him with little questions: what kind of tape should we test? How should we test it? How do we measure the stickiness of a tape. I didn’t know the answers to these questions before hand and we very literally brainstormed together about how we were going to carry out our project.
I have to say, I really do think Ari learned a lot from this little experiment, and we had a blast doing it! My only regret is that the science fair is right smack dab in the middle of winter here, which makes thinking of outside projects a little harder. If I had my way, the science fair would happen in the summer when your kids are home and looking for something to do. We just might be that overachieving family who has their project done before the school year even starts next year.