Elijah yanked two things from his twenty pound backpack: a pink note for me to sign, and a cup of sand fleas. I turned the container upright. “I sure hope that lid is on tight or you’re going to have an itchy day at school.
“See, it’s super-tight,” my twelve year-old said as he pretended to balance the jar on his head.
“So what does Ms. Camacho need my signature for this time?” All this was new to me. I home-schooled Elijah and his three brothers for the last six years. He entered public school in seventh grade. I had a harder time adjusting to the change than he did. Aside from deadline challenges, I wanted him to do well to prove home-schooling worked to myself most of all.
Please be aware that your child will be preparing for the seventh grade Science Fair over the next five weeks. You may need to assist your child in finding supplies to complete a successful project . . .
The Science Fair will be on display in the Long Beach Middle School gymnasium on February 16th. Thank you for your cooperation.
“My calendar shows you only have three weeks left. What happened to five?”
“Remember I had the flu one week, and the paper got lost in my bag the next week, so I forgot about it.”
“You mean lost in the black hole in your backpack. What are you supposed to do with fleas?” Tiny dots darted through the water. I suddenly felt itchy.
“Separate them or something. I have instructions off a website.”
Why did I feel the weight of this experiment would be on me? I am not a science person and neither are my boys. Art runs in our genes, not science. While homeschooling, I often skipped the experiment section. Who has time to hunt down specific chemicals, magnets, or microorganisms? Half the time we attempted to be scientific and follow directions, our experiment flopped anyway.
The next morning, Elijah woke me. “Mom, the fleas died.”
“What?” I panicked at the word died. “Who?”
“The fleas died.”
Relief first, then a new wave of panic. What do you do when your science experiment dies before you start? Elijah would have to fail. And I would be the failure of homeschoolers. I sent my kid to public school and he couldn’t pass science. I’d have to write a note and explain what happened.
Specks floated in the water without moving. Poor fleas didn’t have a chance in our house.
Monday afternoon, Elijah bounds through the door with a new container of water and swimmy things. “Look Mom, tadpoles.”
“That’s great. Looks like hundreds.”
“I have to separate them into four containers and put them in different temperature conditions. Then I have to measure them.”
I wondered if they’d grow enough for the experiment.
For three weeks we had tanks of tadpoles in our kitchen, in the bedroom, under a sun lamp and out in the cold dark garage. I couldn’t wait for February sixteenth to get rid of our new pets. What would we do with a hundred frogs?
Every few nights, we got out a ruler and a spoon. Elijah had to scoop a wiggly tadpole and lay it on a paper plate. I’d draw lines at the head and tail and he’d measure the thing in fractions of centimeters. The warm tadpoles actually grew enough to show evidence on a chart.
The day of the Science Fair arrived, and Elijah showed me to his foam core display. It looked nice with frog stickers, charts, and graphs, as long as I didn’t compare his to some of the real scientific displays . . . generators, electrostatic, motors, raindrop diffraction, antigravity, plants, and mice.
My first children’s science fair amazed me, not just the talent, creativity, and intelligence of the children, but how I looked at the experience. Instead of focusing on my feelings of inadequacy as a science teacher to my children, I saw the awesome display of God’s work. Not one display attempted to show who created the facts they proved, but unknowingly they pointed to a creator who designed perfectly. Even Elijah’s tadpoles.
After the fair, we said goodbye to our little friends and flushed.
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