Friday Sprog Blogging: science fair brainstorming.

As I mentioned yesterday, the elder Free-Ride offspring will be participating in the school science fair this year. Last night at the dinner table, the Free-Ride family started brainstorming project ideas.

Elder offspring: I was thinking about seeing how well plants grow in different kinds of water.

Dr. Free-Ride: That might be interesting.

Elder offspring: I could use tap water, water from the Brita, mineral water, ...

Younger offspring: Soda.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, you might find something out from that comparison. But I'm not buying bottled water from the garden -- not even in a deep drought.

Younger offspring: Why not?

Elder offspring: It's expensive.

Dr. Free-Ride: But if you've been paying any kind of attention, you know that I occasionally "reuse" water from the house on the plants outside.

Younger offspring: Water from the toilet?

Dr. Free-Ride: No! Bathwater.

Elder offspring: Oh yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: And, you know, I assume that it will end up working just as well on the plants as water out of the hose, but it's not like I'm done any experiments to test that assumption.

Elder offspring: Hmm.

Dr. Free-Ride: I've also watered plants with the water I use in the kitchen to wash vegetables. And with the pasta-boiling water.

Younger offspring: And dish washing water?

Dr. Free-Ride: I haven't used that on plants. But again, since I haven't done controlled experiments, I can't know for sure whether that would be good for plants or bad for plants. You know, especially during droughts, it might be important to know what kind of "used" water is OK for plants.

Elder offspring: We could collect rainwater, too. If it rains.

Dr. Free-Ride: Yep, people do that.

Younger offspring: Or sprinkler water.

Dr. Free-Ride: That's pretty much the same as hose water. It's part of our water bill.

Younger offspring: We could collect water from other people's sprinklers.

Dr. Free-Ride: That would be stealing.

Elder offspring: We could collect any sprinkler water that came over the fence?

Dr. Free-Ride: I guess that wouldn't be stealing.

To be continued.

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Ooh, I like the concept. Tap water might not be the same as water that's gone through a garden hose. After all they make drinking water hoses for RVs, which suggests that you shouldn't drink from (ahem) garden variety garden hoses.

Also, and I'm sure Elder Offspring will get there, you'll want to back up your botanical results with some ... chemistry. :)

Please send the test results ASAP to all Western States Governors and Legislatures!

It's a big problem, and solutions are drying up...

Potential downside? This may open a Pandora's Box for The Kid Scientist - Pure Research or Commercialism? This could be important especially when The Sprog gets a huge multi-million dollar settlement for selling the rights to her work.

If you steam veggies frequently, you might want to try using the remaining water in bottom of the steamer, unless you already use that for veggie stock.

Another interesting source of "used" water would be if the sprogs have any friends/classmates who would donate the water from a fish tank or goldfish bowl when the water is changed.

In addition, you're close enough to a source of sea water that you might also want to try that.

Of course, your control should be distilled water. I'm sure you can wangle some from the university.

Might I also suggest that at least two kinds of seeds/plants be tested -- one of them a legume.

Sounds like a fun experiment. If you are considering what types of seeds to try, you might consider nasturtiums. In my experience they germinate reliably and your kids could compare both plant growth and flowering (they also look nice in the garden and you can eat the flowers). Also, they could easily do a bit of chemistry on the water using the test kits sold for checking the water in garden ponds.

It'd be interesting to test the pH (or is that Ph? -- I always forget) of some of the different greywater sources. Litmus paper is always fun.

Also, IIRC, some homemade garden sprays include soaps or detergents, which supposedly help control microbial pests. I wonder if there's a lo-fi way to test for the presence of detergents or soaps in greywater or other wastewater.

Hmmmm. When I was a sprog (many many moons ago), and was visiting my grandparents in the rural south, I remember being fascinated that the drain for the washing machine ran straight out to the edge of the garden, and then drained down the garden's slope. The water was mildly filtered by whatever was on the garden's edge, then water from the washer made it to the food plants. I think the kitchen sink worked that way too, but I am not sure, as it was many many moons ago!

That would be a fun thing to test, if you had the slope, the water drainage, and the plants where the water would go!

By ctenotrish, FCD (not verified) on 20 Sep 2008 #permalink

As a 6 time "parent survivor" of Science Fair projects in our house, can I say that PLANTS are the WORST - you grow them to set your timetable, then grow them again for the experiments and finally grow than for the presentation at the actual fair...........and of the 6 projects it was the most work and the lowest grade - not that the grade actually mattered to "me" as I do support the science fair, but not necessarily for the actual "science" rather the "process" of completing major task by meeting self imposed "deadlines" of the brokendown smaller tasks along the journey. Would love to see photos of the final display - in how many months is that????

By GRAND Aunt Molly (not verified) on 22 Sep 2008 #permalink