Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In Which "She Blinded Me With Science" Becomes Stuck in my Head


Big Pants had to do a science fair project.  I want very much for him to love science. I want him to love science more than football and hockey. I want him to have an inquisitive mind and a willingness to work hard at difficult tasks.  

Except he really doesn't love science, crave discovery, or want to work hard. He wants to watch football and read books about mice and play games.  Sigh.  the kid is too much like me.

A while ago we were given a list of science fair projects we could do. I read through the list and mentally marked off the ones I wanted him to pick, but said nothing. 

He picked the one about making batteries out of lemons and potatoes. Fuck.  I fear electricity, diagrams, and Radio Shack. I feared this would be out of my league, and pressed a friend into service to help.

Unfortunately, Friend felt like the best help was to give me a list of materials to buy, a youtube video of the experiment, and a hand written diagram.  Fuck.  Did I swear that already? Double-fuck. I prepared a thorough and convincing argument to sway Friend into doing experiment with Kid for me.  I failed. Friend seemed to think it was Important, even Imperative that I do the experiment with Big Pants on my own. In my vastly grownup way, I wanted to stick out my tongue and call Friend a big meanie, but I refrained, though it was really hard. 

I started science day by forcing the kids to clear off the table, using the opportunity to teach them the fine distinction between "cleaning" which we did not do, and "stuffing" which we did do.  Stuffing is a very fast method of decluttering a large area by taking everything that is visible and stuffing it into closets, cracks, and crevices that are out of sight. The boys, being my progeny, excelled at it. In five minutes flat we had stuffed everything on the table into and under and around everywhere else so we could take pictures that would not betray my lack of housekeeping skill. 

Next, we started our science. I guided them, but I made them do it. I made my bossy-ass shut up and sit down. For that alone I should get a medal.

Mama:  Today we are going to do the science fair project!
Big Pants: Good, I was afraid we'd forget and it would be late and I'm not sure but it might be due tomorrow. 
Mama: No, it is due Thursday. We have all the time in the world. 
Tiny Pants: Do we get to blow something up?
Mama: No, we don't get to blow anything up, but you can use a screwdriver.
Tiny Pants: Can I keep it?
Mama: No, you can't keep it, but you can use it all by yourself.

I have unfortunately regaled the boys with too many stories, both mine and of my relatives blowing things up in the name of science. My kids now are horribly disappointed every time we run an experiment that does not result in blowing anything up. Tiny Pants was somewhat appeased by the promise of being able to use his very own screwdriver. He does love tools, but he clearly thought the experiment would be much improved by ending with bits of lemons and potatoes dripping form the walls and ceiling.  I hate to say it, but I could see his point. Lighting an LED seemed anticlimactic. 

Still, we did it. We followed the diagram, attached our leads, and lit a really tiny red light using lemons and potatoes.  Then, using my time-honored technique of rerunning the experiment using everything possible just to see what happens, (which once resulted in blowing up a beaker in high school chemistry, my one glory moment of science which the children are dying to replicate) we connected all the lemons and potatoes together and lit a larger blue LED light.  (sorry, Tiny Pants, no explosion. Maybe next time.)

You know what? It was fun. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and we were able to actually make a power source from fruit.  We even used a freaking voltmeter successfully. We rocked it!

I wanted this science fair project to teach Big Pants to have an inquisitive mind and not to be intimidated by things that seem too hard to accomplish.  I don't know about the kids, but I walked away brimming over with Science Mama Rock Star Juju.  I was glad he picked something I thought was out of my league, and glad infamous Friend made me do it with him.



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