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Science fair sparks ideas, creativity for kids

Posted by on February 5, 2013 – 1:37 am

644352_415722685171135_5609791_nI think I’m missing the boat at home.

In the last week, my big kids have come home with packets for their school’s science fair. My engineering-minded, LEGO-building 10-year-old son struggled to come up with an idea for his project that didn’t involve a live animal. He’s studying reptiles at school and he’s completely interested in his research on the komodo dragon, but, no live animals can be used for the science fair.

We finally put a project together – building a ramp to test to speed of bottles filled with various items or fluids. I’m hopeful once he starts designing the ramp, he’ll be on a roll with the project, especially with the help of his inventor grandfather.

My 8-year-old daughter, however, started doing experiments that weekend and she doesn’t even need to come up with her own idea. She’s drawn volcanos on paper, created “tornadoes” in glass bottles and even suggested she build her brother’s ramp.

Her second-grade class is doing a weather-related experiment as a group and she keeps asking when we’re going to get her supplies.

I was so focused on my son’s lack of real interest for this project, that I realized tonight, I need to put more effort into my daughter’s interests and then, perhaps, both of them will come along.

Science and math were important subjects for me during my elementary and high school years. From biology to geometry, I was completely engaged. But as I got older, my desire to tackle tough subjects faded. In college, my degree only required one year of math (which, I’m sure, would never happen today), so I got by with college algebra. But I still loved science. I enrolled in astronomy and plant sciences as my lab sciences. Both were memorable classes, requiring trips to the planetarium on campus or up Tucson’s Mount Lemon to study vegetation.

As students across the East Valley get under way with “science fair season,” I’m sure similar interests will appear.

A recent study found that students are afraid to take the tough STEM classes – afraid to risk failure – and that may be driving some of them away. We posted a link to the study on our East Valley Education Facebook page.

I’m hoping I can find ways to kindle these interests in weather, science and animals that have sparked in my children (thought, I’m still hesitant, to welcome a reptile into the family). Perhaps if they can get engaged now, when they’re young, they’ll take those risks to continue their studies.

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