Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Expanded Updates

I slept soundly from 10:30 last night till 8:30 this morning, and I could have slept another hour or two at least. I could have also taken a nap this afternoon. But I didn't. I have 30 minutes now while Sweetling is watching Cyberchase. I could either clean the bathroom, clean the schoolroom, or put away laundry. I'm doing none of those things. I'm blogging. I'll start at the top of my list from last week, and work my way down to see how much I get written.

Sweetling was in a science fair. We homeschool (sort of, technically, we're part of OHVA.) We participated in a regional science fair with other OHVA families. The Jedi says there were about 25 children in the fair, I would have guessed I'll compromise and go with 30. Now, I aslo have to confess that I am a science fair junkie. I could show up at school science fairs where I didn't even know any children and just wander around looking at science projects and I'd be a happy person. When Sweetling wanted to enter the science fair, it took a very conscious, deliberate effort on my part not to micromanage or, worse yet, want to offer lots of suggestions for how she "should" do her project. But I was a very very good mother, and left her totally alone on the project. She devised it, she named it, she conducted the experiment, she wrote up her report, she wrote up her experiment, she put together her labels and her display board totally on her own. Mommy kept her nose OUT of the project. It took a lot of will power, but I stayed out. And, when we went to set up, many elementary projects had that smoothed, polished, parents helped me put this together feel. Not ours. Ours had crooked lablels, jagged corners, and other minor touches that demonstrated that a third grader had done it independently. And Sweetling was oh so nervous.

So nervous, in fact, that at home, she decided she needed to practice her oral presentation in a room by herself before she could give her oral presentation to her doll babies. You see, science fair projects are judged. The parents are all asked to leave the room. The students stay with their projects and each student must speak to two judges. The student presents and explains her experiment, and then must be preparred to answer questions the judges might ask. Sweetling was quite nervous about this.

I waited in the cold sanctuary of the local church who had agreed to let the virtual school use its facility to host the science fair. I read for a while till the Jedi got off work and got up to the fair. Sweetling and I had arrived at 3:30. The judging started slightly after 4. The parents weren't admitted back into the room until just before 6. (OHVA treated all the families to pizza). Vaya and the Gentle Giant showed up...and I dragged Vaya around the room with me to look at the projects. Mind you, I had already made TWO circles of the room with all its tables and displays...once before the judging, once with the Jedi, and now with Vaya.

There was a kindergartener with a project titled "How does steam make a boat go?" His display included a 'paddle' made from a tin can suspended in a tub formed from a hollowed pineapple half with little plastic pirate figures standing guard. I thought the pirates were a nice touch. There was another kindergartener with "Do roots always grow down?" Her display was perfectly mounted photos of her in various stages of her experiment (which involved sprouting seeds on wet paper towels inside of petri dishes affixed to the window pane. After a certain number of days, she rotated the petri dishes to see if the roots, that now faced up, would turn themselves back down). There was a 4th/5th grader with a project to determine if cats were right or left 'pawed'. She designed three different tests to see if a cat would reach for an object and show a preference for its right or left paw. In addition to her own two cats, she contacted her vets office, and they let her test cats that lived in the office (and some of their employees brought in their own pets for her to test as well.) Of course, a few of the cats failed the jar test when they stuck their heads in the jar to reach the bait rather than reaching in with a paw to pull it out.

Another 4th/5th grader had a "Collecting CO2" project. S/he had a homerigged set up to catch CO2 given off in "kitchen chemistry" reactions. S/he tested the CO2 with limewater to see which set up and "kitchen chemistry" reaction would yield most CO2 collected. Another 4th/5th grader had a project on the effects of acid rain on plants. A 6th-8th grader had a "What's the Hype about Hydrogen" project. He built his own small hydrogen solor cell. I didn't follow this project that well. It was a bit techical for me. Another 6th-8th grader had a project comparing the taste of 'healthier' chocolate chip cookies to standard chocolate chips cookies. I personally thought this one should come with samples for the audience. A 9th-12th grader had a project testing the presence of different minerals in soil and its effects on corn growth. His credits included "I would like to thank my dad for driving me, in a blizzard, to pick up my soil testing kits."

Now, the projects don't really compete against each other. Each project is evaluated by two different judges. Each judge rates each project on a scale from 1-10 in several different categories (and adds any personal comments at the bottom of the sheet.) The catergories are totalled, and the totals for the two judges are averaged. A project with a score of 90-100 receives a superior rating and a blue ribbon. A project with 89-70 points is rated "excellent" and receives either a red or yellow ribbon, depending on the fair...I've seen both. And 69 or less gets a "good" or an "honorable mention" which is almost always printed on a white ribbon. But, more than one project in each age category can receive a blue ribbon....or none can. There is no "first place" or "best in show".

Sweetling's project? She did "Operation Chromotography"....which I believe I've just misspelled. I'll have to get her permission to post her report and experiment write up. She tested the effects of different solvents on three different types of markers to see which produced the best spread of ink. And she, as previously mentioned, was one of only a few to receive a superior rating. And she did it all by herself. No perfect display, no Mommy coaching, no adult revisions of the process or the writing. I'm so so proud of her.

Now, the second thing I like about science fair is the families. There was an 18 month old in a fuzzy yellow shirt and striped leggings that would have made Houdini proud. Every time I glanced around, she was in a different part of the large room, zigging around adult legs with mother or an older sibling trying to catch up with her. At one point, I was standing in the doorway of the room, because Sweetling was in the lobby watching a chess game being played (she got an invitation to join a student chess club), and a streak of yellow at my knees caught my eye as the Houdini child went trotting out of the room....mother just a few paces behind her. Another mother wore this stipped...wrap? I'm not even sure what its called. It was lont and cotton and went across her body twice, from her shoulder to the hips, around her waist and back up to her shoulder. It was secure enough to keep an infant snug against her chest, flexible enough to be quickly rearranged when she sat to nurse the baby, and long enough that two young sons could hold on to the ends of it for security when mom was walking through the crowded room. I think it was one of her older boys that did the CO2 experiment.

Ack! Its 5 o'clock....I have to do dinner. Pineapple pancakes tonight. Mmmmm.

1 comment:

lushgurl said...

Wow you really have been busy! The science fair sounded like a lot of fun and educational too. Have a great dinner, I'll drop by again soon *HUGS*