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Finally! Yesterday, my daughter came home from school with the much anticipated science fair project guidelines. Her school didn’t coordinate the event in time for higher level science fair competitions, so these projects would be for just for a school demonstration.
“What are we doing this year?” I exclaimed with the enthusiasm of an over-involved, competitive parent.
“We are doing our own project this year” she retorted with the sassy sarcasm of an entitled 13-year old.
“Fine, but if I were you I would determine the optimum salinity for hydrogen gas production from environmental sources of water” I subtly recommended.
“And the teacher would know you did the project mom” she fired back.
And, of course, she was right. So now I’m taking a page from my own playbook and letting her lead the way. “OK then, what do you want to do?” I said, starting over.
“I want to get an A, but have fun” she declared, followed quickly by “I could just re-do Sarah’s spitball project, but that wouldn’t show originality, so I want to do something with paintballs.”
The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Me: “What are you going to measure?”
Her: “Splatter patterns”
Me: “How are you going to measure that?”
Her: “Distance between the two furthest paint drops”
Me: “What are you going to change for an independent variable?”
Her: “Distance away from the target, or maybe temperature of the paint ball”
Me: “Why is that important?”
Her: “It doesn’t have to be important, just fun”
Me: “It has to have some relevance – you will need to do some research about splatter patterns in forensic science. And, we don’t have a paintball gun”
Her: “I can borrow one, or we can go to the paintball field and ask if we can do it there”
Me: “OK then, there is your project”
So we aren’t doing what I think will be a winning project. In fact, “we” might not be doing anything but driving her to a paintball field and buying her some colorful paint-balls. I always tell parents it is important to let kids find a topic they are willing to invest some time in, but that isn’t always easy or practical. However, look at the questions I marked in bold – you should ask these questions (in any order that fits) to guide your student to a successful project. This year, I’ll keep you updated on her progress, and frustration levels, for the project. So far, first hurdle cleared – she has found an idea that she wants to do – independent of what I think of the project idea.