Thirteen County Life Lesson

Sorry to be late with this post, hopefully faithful readers. I have been in a rush since mid March and am just now coming up for some air.  I’ve been working with our school’s spring fundraiser,  two field trips in two days, my birthday and Easter weekend with Friday and Monday out of school – not to mention the usual craziness that comes with school winding down. I guess I’m through whining so I’ll get to the post.

The 500+ entries
The 500+ entries

Danger Boy, Ninja Cat and I took a trip to Oxford for the Region VII Science and Engineering Fair recently. They took their projects that I wrote about in Of Bridges and Craters. Both had won first place in their respective categories at school and they were excited to represent their school against the 500+ entries that also decided to show up at Tad Smith Coliseum that day.

We really had a good time. We talked off and on about what was expected of them, what the judges were likely going to ask and how to act/react when the decisions came down. So when we got there, found their gifted Gifted class teacher and their spots, they were as well prepared as they could be for whatever happened. Last year, I was allowed to sit with Ninja Cat as his ‘aide’ of sorts because of his high functioning Autism. But this year, we decided that we should let him sit there on his own. After all, he’s grown by a whole year and he, along with the 500+, had an electronic device to keep him occupied until the judge came to see his project. But we were close to the floor just in case anything did go wrong and he needed someone.

Danger Boy at the Science Fair
Danger Boy at the Science Fair

Next was just to sit and wait for two and a half hours while all the projects were judged by not one but two judges. Ninja Cat said three came by to see him. After that was a long lunch break. So, we decide to go to the main cafeteria on campus. We talked about what college is and an overview of how it works. Danger Boy was wondering how he would get from our house to Ole Miss and back every day. (It’s just over an hour drive.) Then I told him that you live on campus in that situation. That took him by surprise.Then he decided he wants to go to Ole Miss for college, so I can come visit him on weekends as he put it.

We get back to see if any of our students were in the running for the overall medals. Unfortunately they are not; but, that gives us time to enjoy the student/adult version of Family Feud. They did a survey of 100 children that were participating in the fair for the questions and did multiple rounds for lots of people to have a chance to play and for the judges to get a chance to judge the projects up for the overall awards. Danger Boy really wanted us to do it; and, gratefully we were picked. We decided to sit in the same chair on or respective sides so we could go against each other. Our question was “Name an animal that flies.” He beat me on the buzz in; but, I beat him on the answer. Long story short (I know, too late.), we both were surprised that dragon was the number one answer.

After the Family Feud, they were ready to announce the winners. Again long story short, Ninja Cat won 4th place for his project on bridge design and Danger Boy missed the ribbons. Neither child was happy with his result. That’s when the consoling started by not just me but his amazingly gifted Gifted class teacher. However, neither child was consolable right then. So we left right after their lower grade division was complete citing over-stimulation for Ninja Cat.

Ninja Cat at the Science Fair
Ninja Cat at the Science Fair

It took until the next day for them to be able to come to terms with their results. Ninja Cat did say the next morning he had fun doing the science fair and already has ideas in his head on how to improve for next year. Danger Boy is still in the planning stages. But that’s 10 months away, which doesn’t even place it on my radar. I let them plan anyway. It’ll be good for them to learn forethought.

What are some science fair projects you have done/seen in the past that blew you away? I’ll pas them along to Danger Boy and Ninja Cat.

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Of Bridges and Craters

Danger Boy's crater

Okay, so, recently Ninja Cat and Danger Boy had their Science Fair at school.  Fortunately for me this project is science rather than language arts, meaning they were ready to hit the ground running and get their projects accomplished. It’s a pretty big deal to both of them, too. Last year, Ninja Cat won in his category at school, got to go to Oxford  for regional fair, won in his category there and even earned himself an article in the local paper r his accomplishments – magnified by his high functioning autism. Danger Boy, I thought, did an awesome job on his project; but, he wasn’t as lucky. It’s safe to say each of them felt they had something to prove at this year’s fair, be it wanting to go back and repeating a win or getting vindication that he was equally capable as his brother.

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We spent a few hours going through a couple of websites that I love to use sciencebuddies.org and education.com.  Science Buddies is strictly a website for science projects. I love this site because it not only lets you browse projects by subject or grade, it also has a personality type quiz and the answers are a list of projects based on the likes and dislikes of the student. And Education.com is a whole playground of information/worksheets/activities for toddlers all the way through high school. I’ve used their reading comprehension sheets as well as multiplication sheets to supplement Ninja Cat and Danger Boy when they have had trouble with certain topics and math facts. So, going through both websites, we finally came to decisions on what their respective topics would be. Ninja Cat decided to test the strength of three bridge designs. We even came up with a pun of a name for it, ‘“Truss” me I know bridges, “Arch” you glad?’ Danger Boy decided to see if the weight of a falling object would change the size of the crater it made. His title we couldn’t seem to make a ‘punny’ but it ended up being ‘Greater Craters: Does weight change the size of its crater?’

2013-01-24_12-45-43_624Then it became a matter of getting their materials together, actually doing the projects and writing it all down. Because you know to quote Adam Savage, “The only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.” That was so very true in our house the three days we spent working on these projects. Ninja Cat had a ball building his control bridge and two test bridges out of popsicle sticks and hot glue, at least until he burned himself a time or two. Then, he had to take a break before he was ready to tackle it again. Danger Boy’s project consisted of a lot of plaster of paris and disposable cake tins. We mixed the plaster of paris in the tins, then the smaller batch and raced out to the garage before either batch got too hard to use. We then dropped the small batch into the tin and, after it dried, measured the crater.  By then Ninja Cat was ready to finish his bridges and test them with the weights.

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Then it came to writing it all down and making up the boards. they did a great job of  working on the report and getting the boards built. Fortunately, all this work paid off as they each won in their category (Ninja Cat for Engineering, Math and Science and Danger Boy for Earth, Space and Environmental Sciences). So now we get to go to Oxford for the region VII fair March 21 and spend the day. I’m so proud of the work they did on this project. I hope Oxford is a great experience for them.

Hopefully faithful readers, what do you do to help keep your kids engaged in educational activities? I’d love to know.