Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Science Fair Project Dilemma

Note: I wrote this when I was 13. I found it recently and thought it was amusing.

Every year since I started kindergarten, I've been required to do a science project that would count for some sort of grade. It was easy at first, since I could come up with ideas such as "Where do birds fly in the winter?" and print this in giant capital letters on a piece of oaktag, writing "SOUTH" at the bottom of the page. Of course, these were the days when a stick figure of the main character was an A-plus book report. Need I say more?

When we are forced to make fools out of ourselves by presenting our science project in front of the entire class, I find that my schoolmates had the same problem as I did. They waited so long to choose a project, they had to resort to choosing one from one of those books called "Easy Science Experiments to do at Home." My easy science experiment was recycling newspaper, only I couldn't get the paper to turn white and it kind of crumbled up when I touched it. I wound up soaking a piece of store-bought paper and pasting it on oaktag as the finished product. Hey, I know I'm not alone on this.

So on the due date of our science project, we all come to school lugging around a folded piece of oaktag (except for those so cheap, they just pasted a bunch of looseleaves together) and a huge box or other sort of contraption. Nobody wants to go first, but nobody wants to bring their project back home.

The first project up is an interesting one. It is related to botany. "My project is called 'Under What Conditions Will Plants Grow Best?'" the student tells us, although this is written very plainly in flourescent rainbow colors on top of the poster. "What I did was I put one plant on my windowsill, one in my freezer, and one on the heater, and every day I measured how much the plants grew. My hypothesis was that the one on the heater would grow fastest because people say that sun is very good for a plant and the heater is like a sun. Only my hypothesis was wrong because the one on the windowsill grew fastest. I made a graph of each plant, but the ones on the heater and in the icebox didn't grow at all, so I just drew a straight line at zero. Any questions?"

Someone in the back raises his hand, "What kind of plant did you use?"

Student: "Well, I'm not really sure because I got the seeds from this old lady on the street. I'm not even sure they were all the same plant, but they're probably some kind of bean plant."

Another hand, "Did the one in the freezer not grow because it was too cold?"

Our little scientist shrugs, "I'm not really sure, because my freezer isn't that cold. I mean, I've had ice cream melt two times in there. It might also have been because I didn't water it."

"Why didn't you water it?"

"Oh," the presenter laughs, "um, I thought that since there was so much water in my freezer, it wouldn't need any more."

The teacher poses a question, "There's something I don't understand. How could you possibly think you could grow a plant in a freezer with no light or water! And I don't know how you came up with that connection between the heater and sunlight!"

"I think I read it somewhere," the student replies, "any more questions?"

When no hands go up, the student takes a seat.

The next kid comes up with a huge poster, titled, "Is Mother Nature a Girl or a Boy?" Underneath is what looks like a picture of a piece of broccoli (a tree, maybe).

"What I did for my project," he begins ceremoniously, "is choose ten terms that have to do with nature and I figured out whether it is masculine or feminine in other languages. My hypothesis was that Mother Nature was a girl, but it turned out she was a boy. Any questions?"

"What if a word is masculine in one language and feminine in another?"

He hesitates, "Well, actually, I only used one language."

"What language?"

Another hesitation, "Well, actually, it was pig latin and I made different vowels stand for either masculine or feminine."

"What words did you use?"

The student thinks for a minute, "I used park, tree, flower, leaf, grass, bugs, tree trunk, the little animal squirrel-things, soil, and dog-droppings."

The teacher stands, "That was an, uh, very nice project, and I think that will be the last one for today. In fact, that can be the last one this week. Why don't you all bring your projects home and just bring in a terrarium on Monday. You're dismissed, so go home and try very hard not to come back."


  1. Ah this is awesome. Science Projects are not common in South African schools, but we did get to do one in Grade 3. Mine was to show that flames need oxygene to burn. We enjoyed it, but I can imagine it would get tedious if repeated year after year.
    You wrote very ammusingly (and well) at that age!

  2. I did a silly project in 7th grade about whether a person's natural hair color truly has an impact on intelligence. I actually was able to obtain some interesting studies but the questions from my fellow classmates were pretty condescending.

  3. You were 13 when you wrote that? Very funny stuff.

    My favorite science fair project was the one I did in Grade 7. Back then, we were supposed to make a short video and a presentation/bristol board about the project. I remember exactly two things about my project on hot air balloons:
    1) We spent about 4/5 of our time on the video, including a blooper reel and adding in star wipes
    2) Our introduction: "Hot air balloons are balloons filled with hot air; hence the name, 'hot air balloons'

  4. Too funny! I'd have a hard time writing something that funny at my age - let alone at age 13.

  5. Have you seen the comedy sketch about the kid that brings in the cup of dirt for his science fair project?

  6. Ugh. I remember doing those. One year I built a model of the heart beating. (Not very elaborate, I think it involved a plastic container of some kind). There were awards for every year/grade level. I remember getting really upset when I didn't win anything, so the following year my project was a study on the correlation between how long I shook a coke can and how much coke remained in the can after it was open.

    I went on to study biology/chemistry/molecular genetics in college...