A mere 24 hours after writing this blog post, I wanted to eat my words. Well, I wanted to eat something. I was hungry because dinner was late (later than usual) since I was helping my fifth grader glue construction paper to a tri-fold cardboard display. “I hate science,” my son muttered when he realized he hadn’t printed out his list of sources. Of which he had two. “Science is stupid.”
My heart just about broke. This was the kid who’d figured out how to make flubber by watching a few YouTube videos. This was the kid who delighted in setting off baking soda and vinegar bombs and seeing how big of an explosion he could create. This was the kid who spent hours skidding his bike to a stop in our dirt driveway, increasing the angle a little bit with every run, trying to produce the longest skid while not falling over. This was the kid with a scientist’s brain, a curious brain, a learner’s brain, and here he was crouched over his hypothesis, research, and conclusion, nearly crying. “I hate science. Science is stupid.”
First, I broke our no-snacks-after-4 p.m. rule and handed him a granola bar. Then I tried to repair some of the emotional damage wrought by our neglect of a big assignment.
I pointed out that it wasn’t a hatred for science he was feeling right now. It was anxiety because he hadn’t planned his time well. It was disappointment because now he had to do extra science fair work in addition to his usual homework that night. It was frustration because our ancient printer prints very, very slowly.
“If I said, ‘Hey, let’s quit doing this and go see what happens when we mix Jell-O with pudding,’ you’d think that was a pretty cool idea, right?” I asked him.
“Ooooh, can we? What will happen? Will it be gross?” he answered.
“It would be science,” I told him. “And no. Finish your project.”
This would be a better story if we really had mixed Jello and pudding together after finishing his project, but we didn’t have any in the house, and besides, it was bedtime. But guess what’s on the agenda for this weekend? Lots of kitchen chemistry.
The moment served as a reminder. I may vote in favor of science fairs, but even more wholeheartedly I vote in favor of curiosity, passion, wonder, and experimentation of the sort that doesn’t end in a tri-fold cardboard display.