Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring = Science

Yes, Spring has sprung. The trees are blooming, the daffodils are raising their sweet yellow faces to the sun, it smells like wet grass in the morning. What does this all mean in the universe? It means it's time for the annual science fairs. Events characterized by the researching of such lofty scientific questions such as "What happens to various sized Lego vehicles when I simulate a land slide by dumping 4 boxes of dirt over them?" or "What happens when I water my plants with orange juice?" or "What color belt should I wear with these shoes?" (just kidding on that one...)

Both George the Younger and Henry recently completely their annual science projects. This was their first year. I think I recall that George the Younger had one in Tokyo, but apparently the "science fair" thing is not European in nature. This does not mean that I am new at this. I had the pleasure of attending a number of science fairs for Shannon. Shannon remembers these times as sheer terror. Not because she disliked science, but the actual public speaking part of it was miserable for her. Luckily neither of the boys suffers from stage fright. It's unpleasant.

Science project open houses are interesting for about the first three participants that you get to interact with. You are enthusiastic about what made them choose their subject, about listening to them monotone their way through their prepared presentations (reminding you that in their list of materials they needed 2-3 pieces of paper to record their findings) and you congratulate them on a job well done. However, after the 4th one, I'm pretty much over the science fair thing and getting through the rest of the kids is a subtle kind of torture. Like being nibbled to death by ducks. Is that mean of me?

But, beyond the amazingly engrossing and provocative themes my own two sons chose to pursue for this years exposition, I feel I did learn a tidbit or two during my 3 long hours at the two fairs:
  • Bananas stored in plastic bags stay fresher longer.
  • San Francisco tap water performs better than bottled water in "grow bacteria" tests.
  • If you put breakfast cereal under a Plexiglas plate and then rub a sweater on the plate, the breakfast cereal will hover in mid-air.
  • If your various test plants are infested with bugs, your test results become "Like, mostly unreliable"
  • Walgreen batteries perform better on short distance speed tests of a Lego built car than any of the well known national brands.

Pretty engrossing stuff, eh?

So, here's a really terrible photo of George presenting his experiment on short-term memory. He tested whether girls or boys had better short-term memory. Girls RULE! (I already knew that, and I explained that it would be in his best interest to ALWAYS remember that going forward...even when he was married and accusing his wife of not remembering something. It was a classic "teaching moment" for me in my mom role).

Here is Henry and his partner Isabella by their very colorful poster showing the results of their experiment that tested whether or not specific genres of music affected short term memory. Two observations here. One, George did his science project about three weeks ago regarding memory - - are we sensing a little duplication and lack of originality in the selection of our science topic here? Second, the funniest thing written on the board was this sentence, "All of the testers HATED the classical music and it made them too mad to remember." I had no idea that Pachebel's Canon could cause such a visceral response from 4th graders. Oh, and one last observation. Henry is not a midget in his class. Henry IS one of the smaller guys and Isabella is one of the taller kids....

And while we're on the subject of presentations and school stuff - - Henry's class last week had their culminating presentation on their unit of Africa. Each had to pick a country, research it and put some compelling and engaging factoids on a board and prepare a presentation that would engross and entertain the parental visitors. (Yup, just LIKE a science fair, but on a different subject...)

Henry picked Somalia. It is home to a number of wild animals and it is hot there. Such is what I remember. Also, did you know that Africa has some "troubled" parts to it? If by "troubled" he meant that hundreds of people are massacred daily, then I guess it's "troubled".

We were also treated to a fabulous musical presentation of African music. Recorders, singing, and lots of African type drums and xylophone things. The SF School is unparalleled in their music program. Henry is a BIG fan and so am I.

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