Clever science project deserved an ‘A’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oh, the infamous school science fair — who remembers that “exciting” event.

I had not thought about the science fair in years. Then a friend posted something on Facebook that reminded me of school days when we created science projects for judging and for a grade.

When I was growing up I kind of liked science, even imagined I might become a scientist and make some life-changing discovery. (I also imagined I’d be an archeologist and make a discovery — a story for another time.) One Christmas I asked for and received a chemistry set and a microscope from Santa. I was so excited.

In the privacy of my bedroom, I read about the experiments included in my set. I peered through the microscope’s eyepiece at tiny bits of life moving in the drop of water I collected from a stream. It was heady stuff.

For me science was fun in elementary school. I think it was in fifth grade when we did our first individual project and presented it to the class. Mine had something to do with sugar and fire. I remember one part of the experiment created this yummy sugary syrup and the other turned out black, burned-to-a-crisp particles.

Daddy was overseer when I practiced the process at home before presenting it to the class. It worked perfectly and I was excited. His only suggestion was that I could let everyone taste the difference in the two outcomes.

On the day of the presentation, everything went as smoothly as it did when I practiced. I was thrilled when I finished and returned to my desk. I got a good grade, but to this day, I am disappointed that I forgot to let everyone taste my cooked sugar.

High school science was a different thing, especially chemistry class. Biology was fine and my teacher, Mrs. Spencer, was pretty laid back.

Unfortunately, in chemistry, there was way too much math for me and I struggled. I had a lab partner who was the class clown, and that did not make us popular with the teacher. I have a clear memory of the day he used the Bunsen burner to light up the lab report that tracked the results of our experiment. The teacher gave me such a look when I turned it in with burn marks across the top edge.

Ah, but back to the science fair. A big part of our grade in both biology and chemistry came from the project we created for the science fair. This event was a big deal and caused me more than a little anxiety.

First, you had to choose your project, usually with a partner. Then you planned, executed the plan and produced some kind of display to show your results. For me, the queen of procrastination, this was not fun.

My biology project had something to do with brine shrimp, but for the life of me I don‘t remember what I tried to prove or disprove. For chemistry, I tested who learned the fastest, (and by extension who was smartest) boys or girls. The project used different colored cards with words on them. We flashed them at members of the two sexes and recorded who recalled the words more quickly.

The only thing that is a clear recollection about this project is that my partner, a male, spent the majority of his time writing a wonderful report for himself while I put the less than impressive visual display together. No surprise his report got the better grade, which might show who was smartest when it came to producing our project.

Anyway, when it comes to science fairs, I think the Facebook post of what I consider the best project ever says it perfectly.

It is called “How Much Turmoil Does the Science Fair Cause Families?” And after putting together the materials — 1 kid, grudging parents, a half-baked idea and procrastination, the findings are:


I hope that kid got an A+.