Friday, March 7, 2014

This Week in Science

Our little break from the old routine seems to have had a positive effect.

Both the kids have been much more excited about rekindling some of our previous subjects and focusing more attention on them once again. They were especially giddy about science this week. And conducted several projects.

Here's a sampling of the "coolest" stuff.

Zak found some swimming creatures in a puddle and captured a few for study.

He looked them up online on the suspicion that they were most likely mosquito larvae. They were indeed. So we allowed him to keep them and observe their transformation.

He had caught twelve. And after about four days, he insisted on releasing the six surviving adults. I told him only outside. He agreed. It was 34 degrees outside. No, I did not feel sorry for them. They are mosquitoes!

Later in the week Grace wanted to do "fun" science. I wanted to avoid a huge mess.

"Want to play with the food coloring in water?"


So, she made a rainbow. With cotton ball clouds dyed a delicate sky blue.

It was beautiful!

Zak decided he also wanted to do "fun" science.

He made a mini-lava lamp in his test tube out of vegetable oil and food coloring.

Very cool!

I never did any of these things in school. Not that I wasn't exposed to science or science projects. But it wasn't often interest-led by me. I remember a couple of meal worm jars in elementary. And my 7th grade science teacher insisted on dissecting a mother goat who had died before her triplets were born (I spent most of that period in the library crying for the mom and her babies). 

The science fair was scary for an introverted kid like me. I didn't even like solo recitals, and I was decently good at the violin, and those did not involve being judged! The whole scenario was always terrifying to me and took all the fun out of science. Not to mention the fact that there was always going to be someone there who had thought of something more clever, or at the very least more expensive. 

My most pleasant science memory from those years was creating a new musical instrument for the Invention Convention in eighth grade. My Papa (grandpa) helped me mold metal tubing into the shape I wanted. And helped find just the right size smaller tubing to slide in and out trombone style. I then took rubber bands of varying thickness and strung them over the tubing. The idea was to  strum and pick the "strings", and then use the slide to pull the bands tighter to change the tones. 

It never made great music, after all it was only my first prototype. I didn't place anywhere special at the convention. And I didn't care. It was the first time that I was able to present myself and my project with any measure of confidence and excitement! My interest and the fact that it was something I came up with resulted in me not caring what others did as their projects, or how fancy they were. For the most part anyway. Mine was practically free minus the cost of the poster board, and maybe we actually bought a bag of extra long rubber bands, the fact that I had managed to "invent" and be resourceful also made me proud. 

I think I can honestly say that it was after that that I really began to say out loud that I liked science. And that I was good at it. And that is sad. All those years of enjoying that I could have had if I hadn't felt such pressure to "perform". And that pressure came purely from my school environment. My mom had always encouraged me to enjoy it, and my siblings before me had always enjoyed it so much. But the weight of displaying that enjoyment in school was so heavy on me that for a good several years, I chose to hide my secret scientist self, rather than have my teachers identify me as a potential Science Fair candidate.

Should I have felt that way? That's irrelevant. I did. I lost out because of a system based on a single standard for achievement and living by other peoples expectations instead of my own. And I liked school and went to good schools!

I completely believe in teaching kids to do things that are hard. And to learn to deal with uncomfortable situations. But I also believe that each kid is ready for their own personal challenges at their own unique time. And I hope that I am somewhat striking the balance between the two for my kids. Only time will tell perhaps.

In the meantime, however, I am thoroughly enjoying watching them follow their curiosities and turn them into investigations and experiments of their own. I don't feel the need to drill them in scientific process and how to form a hypothesis. Kids seem to be at one with that process naturally. I have very little actual teaching to do. In fact, I learn new things from them nearly everyday. Really cool things. Like what mosquito larvae look like and that food coloring will not mix with oil. And that rainbows look amazing atop baby blue cotton ball clouds.

I recommend doing "fun" science with your kiddos today!

Check out what other homeschoolers have been up to this week at weird unsocialized homeschoolers!

1 comment:

  1. I never liked the science fairs either. It was almost always 95% parent produced and reflected more of the resources of the parent's job or career access for materials or research. The computer age was blossoming by the ages of my two youngest kids, but not every home yet had printers, copiers, color graphs, etc. And getting that stuff done at the local Kinko's was another parent cost. Presentation seemed to matter on the scoring, so handwriting, cut and paste the old-fashioned way seemed futile when you got to the fair and saw the rest. Topic knowledge in interviews was supposed to matter, but shy kids had trouble talking to strangers, especially knowing that it was a "judging."

    By Child Number 5 I had come to the conclusions that those projects were futile. Lab work during class had far more learning value. Basing 50% of a semester grade on mandatory science project participation was non-reflective of a students acquired knowledge (and the teacher's ability to teach), and just plain wrong.