The elder Free-Ride offspring, having entered fourth grade this year, will be participating in the school science fair in the spring. The elder Free-Ride offspring is very enthusiastic about the whole science fair thing.
Meanwhile, I’m having a very hard time.
I’m very committed to the idea that a science fair project is the kind of thing a kid should control, from start to finish — conceiving the project, formulating some clear questions and some promising strategies for answering them, doing the experiments and making the observations, adjusting the strategies as necessary, setting up more experiments, looking at the results, figuring out what they might mean, flagging the questions that remain unanswered, and then figuring out how to communicate it all to kids (and teachers) who weren’t right there with you doing all the research.
If a parent does this stuff (or acts as PI to the kid’s lab tech), I think the parent may learn a lot, but the kid will not get the same experience.
However, since the school year started, I have been bursting with ideas for cool science fair projects. Honestly, I get a new one daily. And I don’t dare speak of them, lest my child latch onto one of them. Because, you know, coming up with a good question and a good approach to tackling it is where a lot of the creativity comes into the science fair.
So, for the experienced science fair parents who may be reading, can you give me some advice on how to stay Socratic with my child while I continue to accumulate my internal running list of science fair ideas? I refuse to be a parent who takes control of my kid’s project, but at this rate, I’m going to have to do some of these projects myself just to satisfy my own curiosity.