|Lily with her project and blue ribbon|
Coming up in a few weeks, my oldest daughter will compete in our area’s regional science fair. She already won first prize in her grade for her school. We are very excited for her project to move on to the next stage.Who’s even more proud than us, though? SHE IS. At just 5 years old, she is very bright and insightful. She has talked about her passion for science ever since her dad brought home some dry ice to experiment with early last summer, so when the paperwork came home for the science fair, there was no hesitation at all. I wasn’t worried about her age or that she was only in kindergarten. The project was completely voluntary, and yes, it took us an exhausting twenty-something hours to finish. But in the end, it was worth it and her project stood out for one very big reason in my opinion: she did it herself.
Science Fair Success
The glue was a bit messy. The coloring wasn’t always in the lines. The printing took a minute to read. The cutting wasn’t straight. But she did it all. She picked a subject she loved more than just about anything, Frozen, and we came up with ideas for how that could relate to science. In the end, her experiment was extremely simple. We ran three trials to see what household spice would help melt ice the fastest. We didn’t have to buy a single material. We used ice cubes and some spices we had around the house and ta-DA! The learning part was important for me as a parent. I didn’t want her to just do the project; I wanted her to really embrace it, and, you know, become the project. We used ‘Sid the Science Kid’ clips on YouTube and National Geographic Kids materials to help her understand why ice forms and what it takes to melt it. Still, months later, she understands reversible change. And this past winter, for the first time, I think she finally understood why salt was all over the ground on snow days and why sunny days made the snow melt faster. She did the project herself and SHE LEARNED FROM IT.
We viewed all the other projects from her school and very few of them had any childlike handwriting on them. In fact, the vast majority were typed on the computer. Can a child peck at a keyboard and do that? Sure. But is it the same effort? Does it create the same sense of pride and accomplishment and self-worth? Unlikely. I’m all for incorporating technology for learning with the newest generation, but this project and most of her school work is where I make the exception. Each day when she has to write down the name of the book she read for homework, it encourages her to practice her printing, connect letters together to make words, and further develop a love for reading and writing. Yes, I have to help her spell many of the words still. She’s smart but not a prodigy or anything. But what would she learn if I just did all the writing for her?
So yes, her science fair project won, and since I know the experiment itself was nothing outrageously special, I have to believe she won because it was obvious that a child did the project. Her sentences were basic. Her explanations were the thinking of a 5-year-old. The spices she wanted to experiment with were fun things like sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. And it featured fun drawings of snowflakes and Frozen characters. The whole project just screamed LILY. She worked her butt off for her trophy and it was a lesson to us all to continue encouraging her to put effort into the things she wants to accomplish because the results are simply amazing.
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