Wednesday, April 18, 2012

mold, tungsten, venus fly traps, crystals

This post should start with my disclaimer: Please note that I attempt to include in my blog something for everyone. I realize that some folks enjoy finding fault and for those readers I thoughtfully include a socially acceptable number of errors within the blog.
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People are complex and that’s one reason we approach and view the very same thing differently. Lately I’m discovering my own approach to things have changed. The following story is an example of this. 

Oh before I forget, the items in the post title were all involved in this story. (sounds more exciting than it was).

talk about presentation pressure

The story starts back in February when a family member passed along a request for science fair judges. I love science and have posted a few times about visiting FermiLab for physics lectures. I volunteered my services and was accepted as a 7-8th grade science fair judge. 

In the past this type of event would be something I didn’t give much thought to and might have only worried about a schedule conflict popping up. Maybe because I have more free time or maybe the reduced amount of professional interactions, but as the science fair grew near I became more worried about my judging capabilities. I had not done this type of public judging before. My frequent private personal judging of people doesn’t apply for this. 

Would the judges (I didn’t even know how many there would be) need to form a consensus for each award? Would I need to defend my grading? 

The whole process turned out to be very informal. There were 6 or 7 judges and we were given a common list of grading objectives. Each judge was assigned to a table of student projects (only 8 projects). The only judge that went through the complete set of projects was the science teacher Becky Cross. 

I learned afterwards that the projects were a mandatory class assignment. Our judging was held right after the school day ended. I was both surprised and disappointed by the few number of students who stayed around to explain their projects. Of course, students have more demanding schedules today than when I was a student. I do think having the judging during school hours would be better since talking to student about their work shows their knowledge and involvement in their project.


Bread mold was a popular project. The venus fly trap experiment was interesting. The young scientist timed the closing of the trap in different conditions. I didn’t judge that project but stopped by to see the bug eating plant. I might just order one of these online (less than $10).


Of the projects I judged, I found the crystal experiment the most interesting. The experimenter grew alum, salt and sugar crystals. He dyed the crystals different colors. Crystals display much better than say a paper towel absorption experiment.

In the end, the science fair was an experiment on myself. I still have not concluded what the cause of my concern regarding my judging was.

21 comments:

SparkleFarkle said...

I am very impressed to hear you are science-tific. Because I could draw, the
nuns at the parochial school I attended had me making giant murals and creating
bulletin boards during both math and science. (To this day, I can't calculate to
save my life, either. So, don't ask me to.) Thus (<--Don't you just love it
when somebody uses the word "thus"?!), my knowledge of science is limited to two
things: I can spell the word "science" and I collect pictures of mad
scientists
. Might you send me an 8 X 10 glossy of yourself to add to
my treasure? Thanks ahead!

unknownmami said...

Judgmental pre--judging jitters.

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I can recite the entire table of elements

Frau said...

My hubby would love to be ask to do that, he is what we call a science geek....maybe you are too....in a good way!! lol! I don't miss those days of science fairs...

Bearmancartoons said...

My project was the show a picture of a heart (that I spent 2 hours plus drawing on cardboard)  I had a chair and demonstrated that by repeatedly standing on the chair your heart rate would increase.  I think I got a B-

Thisstopwilloughby said...

It sounds like fun, and yet, I would have trouble choosing a winner knowing that all of the kids worked hard on their projects.

Years ago my son had to do a project where he compared similar things.  He chose to compare the amount of time it took for different brands of breath mints to dissolve in your mouth.  Luckily, he only had to display the statistics on a presentation board, he did not have to demonstrate them for a panel of judges.  That would have been weird.  He got an A.

Tami Miller said...

The kids came up with some interesting ideas.  Sounds like you had fun!

lisleman said...

 wow I figured you would get stuck on chocolate.

lisleman said...

 I did like the idea of doing it.  Interviewing the contestants was fun but grading not so much.

lisleman said...

 Did you pursue it further and find out what happens to your mother's heart rate when you fall off?  You get an A for the comment.

lisleman said...

 it was fun but I wish more kids stayed to get interviewed.

lisleman said...

 Actually the breath mint idea would be good to have the judges put into their mouths.  My engineering background and science interest has me immediately wanting more details.  Do the mints all weigh the same, coatings, shape, rinse between tests, chewing allowed, tongue movement...
I'm sure your son has long moved on (might still use breath mints) but I think it would be more controlled if you put the mints into the same amount and temperature of water and stirred them.
thanks

lisleman said...

 Good - is today's letter 'J' ?   Maybe you remembered how I enjoy alliteration.  thanks

lisleman said...

 ROFL - thanks - I hope to use this pic soon.   "Thus" vs. "Therefore" is a tough choice.  But my favorites are, "clearly, can be easily shown" and other handwaving techniques to confuse the audience.

Jene said...

I always loved science fair season. My school didn't have any actual judging or awards, though, which drove me crazy. I always wanted to be evaluated. Were you a Simpson's fan back in the day? I always think of myself in that episode when the teachers all went on strike and Lisa was losing her mind - "Grade me! Graaaaaaaaaaaaade me!"

It's awesome that you provided your time for those kids, though, especially the ones who stuck around for the show.

lisleman said...

 thanks - I don't remember the episode but it sounds like the Lisa character.  It's funny how she is so more advanced than her dad.

CaliforniaGirl500 said...

What?  No fruit flies?

lisleman said...

No didn't see any but it would have been fun to put a fruit fly experiment next to the Venus fly trap.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think they should do science fair judging during school, too - a lot of kids are bound by bus-riding and don't have parents who alter their work schedules.

Shrinky said...

I think it says much of you that you,  a) Gave up your time, and b) Took the task seriously enough to worry about it.  So, um, who which was the winning project, and did you all agree over it?

lisleman said...

 Thanks -  I was surprised that the results did not get posted quickly on the science teacher's web page but I have no idea of how busy she is.  Had I stuck around for the public portion of the fair I might have heard.  Perhaps they downplayed the awards.  It was the school's first science fair.

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