a fair of science

There’s a lot to love and hate about science fair. I have both of these emotions, and everything in between.

This is Grace explaining her project to the school principal during the evening open house:


Events and images like this one are what make me love these fairs. Grace studied the milk of the very goat that she milks, with a little help from friends who mentor her and take her on as their indentured servant once a week. We, and Grace, are grateful. It isn’t just because she occasionally, literally, brings home bacon from the farm, but because she’s a little taller and sure of herself each time she’s mucked a stall or filled a pail. She was a chip shorter after she got knocked over by a horse, but, on the whole, she’s growing.

And so, having milk that she could measure density and pH of, milk that she herself pulled from another warm member of the planet, was incredibly meaningful. This was especially apparent as the project next to her was a vinegar and baking soda induced volcano, or what I will refer to as Not Another Fucking Volcano. And, even though I will publicly claim it doesn’t matter, I was really proud to see a rare purple ribbon hanging on my nine-year-old’s project, contrasting another, lesser color of her volcanic nemesis. [Loser.]

Besides the ribbons, there isn’t anything beyond this for these kids and their tri-fold boards. No district fair, no advancing, no prize money, and nothing beyond the subtle ribbon that was taped to their board when they arrived at 5:00 PM for the hour of public display. People walked around and talked to kids about how candles could burn when they were in a freezer, or how different pots could play different pitches, how a potato can sprout roots, or how metronomes could couple and synchronize when sitting together on a platform free to roll on two cans of black beans. (That latter one was Anna’s project, also deserving of a purple ribbon. I was proud that she took a demo I’d done and then actually studied it, collected data, and found a more efficient way to get the pendula to swing together.) Kids strolled around and talked to their friends about their projects, or just asked to see a volcano erupt one more time. It was an hour of science and community, all at the school that’s two blocks down the street from our home. It was just exactly what it should be.

We spent an hour, after which we had to fold up the displays and head home. “Science is over!” I proclaimed, maybe, definitely, too facetious in my haggard state.

“But Dad, science is never finished.” Grace challenged, knowing full well what I was up to. And I couldn’t have been more proud of my goat milking, data collecting, purple ribbon kid.


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