February 23, 2011

Science Fair

Well, today was the big day!  Hunter and Hannah Jane both put up a board at the science fair this year and they were so darling to watch talk to the judges and tell people about what they did.  As usual, I dressed the boys alike.  Hannah Jane usually expresses jealousy that the boys always match and she never matches them, and today I just happened to have a third blue sweatshirt because I bought them for a craft project.  I asked if she want to match them.  She said no thanks, but them proceeded to dress herself in an oxford shirt with a navy sweater over top just like the boys!  We looked like a family of prep school kids in uniforms.  Joe thought they looked great and then teased me saying that it was time I start taking this whole home school thing seriously and making them wear uniforms every day!  Can you even imagine!  Haha!

Hannah Jane did a research presentation on DNA with a DNA model, models of the  individual molecules that make up the nucleotides, phosphates, and sugars, and models of the atoms that make up those molecules on top.  She divided her board in two by making a bi lipid layer with channel proteins and on the bottom half of her board she wrote a bit about the difference between chromatin and chromosomes, presented an illustration of the steps in mitosis, and finally showed how the half amount of DNA in each daughter cell goes about replicating for a complete set.

I had no doubt she'd chat up the judges, and she certainly did.  I styayed far away while the judging was gonig on because she gets nervous when I stand within ear shot.  From where I stood I could tell they asked her lots of questions and she pointed to different things on her board and then shot me a confident smile as they left her area.

When it was over, both judges came over to me to talk about her.  One works on genetics in bees and invited her to his lab to look at what he's working on.  On his score sheet he commented that she could teach his college students.  He made her feel like such a big shot!  The other judge was a geneticist and really drilled her with questions, which apparently she answered thoroughly.  Under "advice" on the score sheet he wrote,"We should all just stay out of her way."  She told him that she used to want to be a pilot but now she's considering science.  If you can believe it, he responded by telling her that he's a scientist and a pilot so she doesn't have to choose!  He got his pilot's license so he could get him self from University to University while he collaborates on research.  He's her new hero. 


From the outside it would have been easy to assess Hannah Jane as the Christison star of the day, but Hunter made a surprising debut on the science fair scene, becoming the understated star.  He did a simple test to see what ratio of baking soda to vinegar would produce the biggest explosion in his model volcano.  He tested each ratio by putting the amount of vinegar into a bottle, the measured amount of baking soda into a balloon, and then attaching the two, letting them combine, and then seeing which balloon expanded the most.  The ratio with the biggest resulting balloon was the one he eventually added to his volcano.  I wrote his words on the construction paper for him and he traced my pencil writing with a marker for his display board.  It cracks me up that a kid who can't write his name can be in the science fair! 

Joe just happened to drop by the fair as the first judge got to Hunter's table.  From across this giant industrial space in the applied technology college, Joe and I watched intensely.  What will he do?  Will he even speak to the judges?  It was like watching in slow motion as the judge asked his first question.  Then, as we watched on pins and needles, Hunter began to chat away.  He spoke, he gestured and pointed to his board, he made eye contact.  He really did it!  Joe and I were a little gushy over it all.  Joe said that no matter how I could have described it, he would never have believed what he saw come from Hunter when the moment arrived.  Again, we have no clue what he said.  But that fact that he said anything at all to a complete stranger and appeared to be pointing out elements on his board was amazing to behold.  Last night he was dead set against putting his board in the fair even after all the work he put in.  But today when the judge walked away, Hunter flashed a proud thumbs up across the room!

Hunter is a tricky little guy.  It's like he saves up his star power and releases it in little self assured bursts. I worried that it wouldn't be easy on him being the little brother of the budding geneticist at the science fair and watching both of the judges pass by him to ask me about her, but he was in his own little bubble of pride and didn't even seem notice if anyone but him had achieved anything today. I mean, he behaved like he'd been in a million science fairs and this was not in the least a big deal because he so obviously nailed it.  I glimpsed a new confidence in him as he left, ribbon in hand and tootsie pop in mouth.  A swagger.  In the car he said, "I was the littlest kid in there and I got me that ribbon.  And I talked to those judges with the questions."  My big little man!  So proud!

My final gushy moment of the day was in the car.  Each participant got a ribbon and 3 tootsie pops just for showing up.  Three of the kids old enough to qualify got prizes.  When each kid went up to get their ribbon and candy there was a round of applause.  In the car Hannah Jane and Hunter each gave Haven one of their pops so everyone had 2.  Then Hannah Jane said, "Haven didn't get any applause and he made this day possible by not throwing any fits while we were there!  Some of those little brothers were wild!  But Haven followed all the rules so he derives some clapping.  Let's hear it for Haven!"  We all clapped and Haven's face just lit up!  It was so cute.  She made him feel like a vital part of the day and he totally ate it up!

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