Monday, February 27, 2017

Slime and the Fire Volcano: The 2017 Homeschool Science Fair

I made it clear to my two that they were on their own with the Science Fair this year. What with Girl Scout cookie season and the Trashion/Refashion Show deadline, I am up to my gills in responsibilities that I'm already fulfilling for the children, and I did not have time to baby/bully two big kids through their umpteenth academic fair, as well.

Choose your topics and fly free, Younglings!

So that's how one kid chose Slime for her topic, and the other kid (in her second year of explosives-related topics) chose Fire Volcano.

Of course, I did have to help a little. I suggested to Syd that she research non-Newtonian fluids and include her findings in her presentation, and I made Will a fresh batch of rocket candy and suggested some flammable materials that she could add to her choices--rum was a bust, but rubbing alcohol was pretty epic.

The kids did everything else. Syd created several batches of gak and slimes, researched and wrote an interactive presentation (when she asks a question during her presentation, in her notes she's written down different things that she can say based on the response. It's pretty brilliant), created a display with no input from me (and it's better for it--I've never seen a Science Fair display with funny math jokes before!), and prepared a demonstration to be performed during her presentation.

The presentation kind of goes to hell after I cut off the video, because somehow, between pre-making the demo slimes and handing them out, the slimes all got really, really, REALLY sticky. Add to that the fact that Syd wasn't able to let her glitter slime steep long enough, so it was basically still glue at the end, and within 30 seconds all of the children's hands were covered in sticky slime. It was... chaotic. Syd's little face fell at the children's exclamations of disgust at the mess, and I was worried that she'd think her well-prepared presentation had fallen flat, but after the presentations, all of the children flocked back to the slimes, peppered her with questions, wanted to hold them all again, stickiness aside, and she packed up thrilled with the overall experience. Whew!

Will edited and compiled a video of her successful combustions (she left out rum and the cornstarch bomb, which were both busts)--

--and narrated the video as her presentation:

I'd wanted her to also create a display, and I told her so, but when she asked if she *had* to, I admitted that although I'd like her to, I was too busy to make her (or rather, I was to busy to offer several rounds of constructive criticism of her half-assed, unenthusiastic work on said display until after ages upon ages she'd finally reached the minimum level of effort that I would permit her to expend), and so she didn't. She also didn't prepare her written narration, nor did she look up, as I'd REALLY wanted her to, the combustion formulas for the materials, or the temperatures at which they burn (and ha! Because she totally got asked that one!), nor did she demonstrate, as I'd thought she should after what she was showing her audience, "Stop, Drop, and Roll." Oh, well... my limited free time and mental health are more important that making my kid have the most well-researched Science Fair project in Meeting Room 1B.

I'd been worried that the project was a little "homeschool"--you know what I mean?--but I often forget that with kids, simpler is always so much better, and there's a lot interesting in the simple observations of the combustion of various materials. The audience, at least, seemed fascinated, and asked Will tons of questions,  so many so that, as is probably clear on the audio, I became concerned that all of the children were about to go home, sneak their parents' nail polish remover out of the bathroom, and go set their yards on fire.

Fun fact: academic fairs are kind of the worst to sit through, as you have to patiently witness all the children practicing their newborn public speaking skills, and it's just so awkward to watch them being all awkward and uncomfortable, etc. Nevertheless, I LOVE kids' presentations, and their displays, and seeing what they're interested in, and I'm pretty sure that I was the first person on this one kid's homemade paper airplane testing field, although my paper airplane design, even though it was freaking brilliant, did not fly 27 feet in a straight line and therefore I was not able to sign my name at the end.


So we enjoyed an evening of slime, Fire Volcano, the megaladon, flight--

testing their designs on the homemade paper airplane run
--birds, force and wind energy, and why salt melts ice. Then we read in the library for a while, then went out for frozen yogurt, then went home, then some of us ate sandwiches, and then all of us went to bed!

Check out all of our previous Science Fairs below:

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