The Science Project

scienceWhen the grandkids descended, it was not just to eat, fish, terrorize the cat and see Grandma.  It was so Mom and Grandma could complete the annual middle school Science Project.

Two of my grandchildren attend a small school in a smaller school district in an upscale area.  To say the school district takes itself quite seriously would be a monumental understatement.  They strive to make sure their students are functioning at much higher levels than developmentally possible.

Translation: with luck, their parents are college educated and can do the work.

I helped Grandson I for two years with The Science Project, and have just completed year one with his younger brother. 

The Science Project Directions for Sixth Grade (12 years old): 

Select an experiment that can inform our community.  Include a summary introduction, manipulated, responding and controlled variables, a problem statement, research question, hypothesis, background research as well as materials, procedures, setup drawings/photos, observations, data tables, results, analysis and a conclusion.

All of which well might be fine… if the students actually had a science class that walked them through their experiments and reports.

They don’t.

…and, if the expectation was for the experiment, report and poster were in line with the abilities of sixth, seven and eighth graders. 

They aren’t.

Translation:  select an experiment that the parents can underwrite, conduct, marginally understand and submit a 30 some page word processed report as well as an artistic poster board presentation for the community to admire.

When Grandson I first ventured out, he and his partner teamed up with partner’s Dad to measured the levels of methane gas with Dad’s company’s newly developed thingamajig.  Unfortunately, as the thingamajig hadn’t yet been completely patented, much of the threesome’s findings remained largely confidential. 

While the kids didn’t have much a clue as to what they were doing, they did enjoy the trips to woods, cemeteries and the ocean in Dad’s brand new car to measure whatever Dad could measure on said thingamajig. 

The Mom in the equation is an exceptionally talented artist so while Dad helped write the required report, keeping the non-disclosure items confidential, Mom made an incredible poster for the required Science Fair, where the kids appropriately dress up to show off their parents’ handiwork.

Entering the Fair, the boys were very excited to discover that the exceptionally professional and artistic poster, the focal point of the exhibit, was actually theirs.

The ensuing years have not been as easy for my daughter and son-in-law, who have now had to take the lead on these annual Science Projects. Grandma, former English teacher and Office Word and Excel Wizard, has been recruited to do the editing and de-plagiarizing as well as the formatting of the overall report and data tables for Mom’s poster board. 

This year, as I am pretty much fully retired, I was also assigned to gather some of the background research. 

The annual Science Project is an extended family activity.

The adults attempt to follow the Science Project webpage and directions, which evidently haven’t been updated since 2010 and could possibly be the reason this year’s project was due in the middle of Spring Break and website refers back to what we covered in class when, in fact, there is no class.

Just the Project. And it has to be in Goggle Docs.

There’s a required Table of Contents, which is not found in Goggle Docs, and a list of all the topics to be included in the TOC.  A good number of those topics are not included in the directions that follow, but, to keep things more or less balanced, there are other topics that evidently do need to be included.

The pages are to be numbered a particular way, which is more or less standard formatting in college and quite easy for a former English teacher to format with either Word or an old timey typewriter, but the particular formatting required can’t be done in Goggle Docs.

Sigh.

The website for the science project is akin to jumping into a rabbit hole — a string of one idea/link after another, with no organization and minimal application to what has been assigned.

It’s no wonder the parents (and grandparents) get frustrated.

To be fair, by the time of the Science Fair, the kids do have a superficial understanding of what has transpired and, as it’s all about appearances, they do have to wear nice outfits when they present their parents’ work.

This is where many of the young boys actually get involved: figuring out their wardrobe and the tie, pressed shirt and nice pants that will make the most interesting contrast with their florescent Nikes.

Apparently, I still have two more years of the annual Science Project and then the youngest grandson will be off to high school, where the assignments will be oh-so-much easier.