The Science Fair

Our homeschool support group’s annual Science Fair was just over a week ago, and I’m going to use this space for a little wrap-up and closure. This year I had the honor of being The Science Fair Lady (coordinator is the proper title, but I think Science Fair Lady has a rather flamboyant ring to it, don’t you?)  That means mostly that I got to update all the very organized files that the former Science Fair Lady passed on to me. She’d been the SFL since this particular Fair’s inception, and she was ready for a break. So it really wasn’t too much work, but it did take up a bit of our free time last week to update the files, communicate with the participants, organize our judges, print out the fancy certificates, re-print out the fancy certificates after I realized that I’d forgotten to update the part of the certificate that said “2009”, quick trip to the office store to get the fancy certificate paper so I could re-print them, etc. etc. We had a nice group of 16 young scientists with projects ranging from Buoyancy to Water Rockets to Hammering Forces to Packing Materials to Popcorn and more. We had three excellent judges who arrived early with properly solemn judging faces. All the children set up their displays, waited somewhat nervously until their turn for judging, and then showed lines of concentration across their faces as they explained the workings of their particular experiments.  At one point I grew worried that perhaps our judges, being fresh this year and wanting to do their official best, might be taking their role too seriously, as I saw a couple stricken faces and prolonged interviews. I wondered aloud to Former Science Fair Lady, who was in attendance and standing nearby, if I should tell the judges to be a little more lenient and let things slide a little. “No Way!” said that wise FSFL, “This is Real Life! This is the Science Fair, not the Literature Fair, there are yes and no questions, with right and wrong answers. Maybe not everyone will get a ribbon, and that is real life.” Yikes! Okay, I thought trepidatiously, since it was her young daughter who was looking the most stricken!  I am one of those troubling American parents who grew up with affirmative action; I want everyone to get a trophy! I want everybody to be happy!  Smiles all around! Well, it all turned out okay. After the judges finished there were refreshments while I tallied things up in the room next door and stapled the correct color ribbon on the certificates. Then the award ceremony! I got to be all official and shake hands with each of the students as I handed out their certificates. Then it was time to clean up and put away, and my one regret about being SFL was that I didn’t have enough time to read the displays and learn from them myself. As we were packing up, three brothers approached me to say thanks and they told me how excited they were this year to earn the blue ribbon. Last year they hadn’t gotten the blue, and they had worked really hard for it this year. That made their accomplishment very satisfying. It showed me that if I spare someone the disappointment of not getting a blue ribbon, I may be keeping them from the drive to excel, improve and accomplish which brings its own sweeter rewards.  I love science – at least science at this fun experimental level. And I love that after three years of science fair, my kids really have a handle on what the Scientific Method is and how to use it. Somehow I never really learned all the steps until…well, when we signed up for the Science Fair two years ago! What I really love about learning science is that better understanding how the world is put together gives us all the more reason to glorify God for His amazing creation. He made it all for us to live in and enjoy, and somehow, despite the impression that some professional scientists give that they’ve got the how and why all worked out, I suspect we’ve only just scratched the surface. Take courage, young scientists, there’s a lot more to discover! Thank Him for it!

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