Thursday, May 28, 2009

This is probably a good indication of why I never became the next Einstein

As I'm sure was the case in many schools, my junior high science fair was pretty much the highpoint of the academic calendar when I was growing up. Curious kids competing for the right to win a blue ribbon and have a grainy picture with the school superintendent taken for the local paper.

Volcanoes made out of silly putty, baking soda, and red Jell-o. Working scale model versions of the space shuttle. Genetic DNA strands made out of paper clips and construction paper and coconut flakes, sentient robot dogs that can do the New York Times crossword puzzle, all the standard cool stuff.

And then there were my projects. I was never in any danger of having a grainy photograph taken with the superintendent.

Not only were my projects half-ass and uninspired, they also caused undue grief for my mother. Let me explain:

Seventh grade: Photosynthesis. Not a bad choice, although I think I chose it because it was the first topic that I came across in the 25-year-old science book I had been given by my uncle. Oh yeah, and because all I needed to do was take one of my Mom's African violets. And put it near a window. And forget to water it. There was also somehow a ruler involved, which I measured how much the plant grew due to the wondrous effects of the sun. Somehow, even without water, the plant managed to grow enough, or at least lean in the direction of the sun enough, for me to finish my paper and cart the thing to school on the bus.

Even though I was no where close to being a science fair winner, what with a half-dead plant plastered in front of a white poster board with the word "Photosynthesis" scrawled across it in an unsteady green marker while robot dogs were doing the New York Times crossword puzzle next to me, I did manage to score a gentleman's B for the project, largely due to the fact that, although I couldn't conduct a science experiment to same Madam Curie's life, I was more capable than most at stringing coherent thoughts together for the written portion of the project. (Wow, that was a really long sentence, sorry.)

Oh yeah, I also forgot to take the half-dead African violet home, much to my mother's chagrin. No strike that, not chagrin, more like anger. I believe my mother had to call the school and stage a rescue mission for the plant.

Which meant that my science fair project for
Eighth grade: Would not involve the use of any of my mother's possessions. Yet somehow, my mother was not all that pleased with this project, either.

Probably because my room stank like vinegar for a month. Once again, I chose a project which required little to no actual effort. Instead of watching a plant die through the magic of photosynthesis, I measured the evaporation rate of water versus the evaporation rate of vinegar.
That's right, basically, I stuck a ruler in a bowl of water and a bowl of vinegar every couple days as my bedroom began to smell more and more like a sauerkraut factory. I'm sure it was the same method Dr. Salk used to cure polio.

For this project, I'm pretty sure my mother was happy to never see or smell the offending bowl of vinegar again, even if it did mean that she lost a couple of Tupperware bowls in the bargain.

Once again, I got the gentleman's B for a project that consisted of two plastic bowls sitting in front of a poster board with the "evaporation" scrawled unevenly in blue marker.

And I never did get that scholarship to MIT.


Blogger Jazz said...

You never got the scholarship? I can't help but wonder why.

I'd've given you an A just for devising a project that demanded so little effort. There's gotta be a bit of science in that somewhere.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Chris @ Maugeritaville said...

Great stuff. You'll have to find comedian Brian Regan's bit on science fair projects. His was called "Cup of Dirt" which is similar to your plant experiment.

This was great.

4:03 PM  
Blogger david mcmahon said...

Ah, but it's possible to earn straight As in the Greater University Of life.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A gentleman's B...perfect! you actually did your OWN projects? I was always convinced that the best parents were building the exploding volcanoes and their children were the luckiest in school.

My poor kids did their own projects...I still think the parents do the best projects, but they are not the best parents, just grownup kids still trying to earn an A!

9:33 PM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I'm so glad those days are nearly over...I say nearly because I had to help my daughter and her partner build a two person boat out of cardboard...they did all the work...I just painted some...but it was a huge stressful event...all conducted on the balcony of a highrise apartment in the middle of town. Then they had to race the boat...okay I didn't mention it was a theme! Peace and love...and they dressed as hippies...I was afraid the boat would sink! It didn't. Then on the written part, her partner thought he turned in the joint report but it was located in the lost and found! This was a physic project! (How to not sink a boat? Why a boat floats?) Your efforts were a bit lazy but at least they were do-able! Funny!<3

5:12 AM  
Blogger Jeni said...

Speaking as one who is truly older than dirt, if I tell you when I was in Junior and Senior high school this was back in the day before Science Fair projects even existed! Nope, our school never held any such thing although, our art teacher did have an evening of art displays from those of us in her class and I had I think three pictures --one an oil painting of my dog, another a pastel portrait of my best friend in high school and the third, a black scratch art portrait of a guy seven years my senior that I did from a photo of him when he was in 2nd grade (about the time I arrived in the world.) The scratch art portrait was the best of the bunch of my pieces.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Pyzahn said...

I remember a science project that was a dissected visual of a tooth...enamel, root, etc.

The only hitch, my father made it all. Carved it, painted it, mounted it. I remember sitting on the basement stairs watching him work and wondering why if it was my project I wasn't allowed to touch it.

It looked pretty good but alas I didn't take a lot of pride in it.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Suldog said...

Hilarious. I was the same way. I used to favor the type of science "projects" that involved drawing stuff, and making charts, but where you didn't have to actually do any work that could be checked - theories about dinosaur extinction, perhaps, current weather versus that from 30 years ago...

12:25 PM  
Blogger Expat From Hell said...

Anyone with this much expertise deserves to be on my "must read" list. I will be back again.


12:54 PM  
Blogger Cheffie-Mom said...

Hi, I'm over from David's authorblog. Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

4:52 PM  

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