“The yellow one’s the sun!” Why science projects suck

There aren’t many statements that bring on a headache like, “Mom, we have to pick a science project.”

I’m a political organizer. I know history and government. Graphing data and proving a hypothesis makes me tired and confused. When my kids ask for help that doesn’t include a fun dissertation on why Woodrow Wilson was ineffective, they almost always regret it.

Here are some of my science project suggestions that never got approved:

– How can a toilet back up when no one in this house knows how to flush?
– Let’s see if the laundry folds itself.
– How many times do you need to be told that towels are for *clean* faces and hands?
– Do shoes belong on comforters I just washed?
– If you learn how to properly wipe your ass, perhaps sorting laundry won’t make Mommy vomit.

Their teachers didn’t appreciate my help either, so the boys were encouraged to visit certain “approved” websites and eventually came up with these ideas:

Which uses more water – a shower or a bath?
Which burns faster – a colored candle or a white one?

For kids who still sleep with teddy bears and have imaginary friends?

Well, all right, high achievers…if you want to be all traditional about it.

These projects were due after winter break, and I insisted they finish early so I wouldn’t have to spend two weeks fighting with kids who’d rather sing “Black Hole Sun” with the avatars in Rock Band than work during a “vacation.”

“What are you doing with my measuring tape?” Marc asked as I made my way to the bathroom.

“Jacob has to run the shower for five minutes and then the bath for five minutes,” I explained. “We are going to close the drain in the tub and then measure afterwards to see which uses more water.”

Marc wrinkled his nose and blinked a few times.

“Okay, Bill Nye, how are you going to measure water with a measuring tape?” he asked.

“The teachers require metric measurements. So when the five minutes are up, I’ll just stick the tape in the tub to see how much water is there.”

Marc gave me a look that combined amusement with horror, as if I just asked him to watch Moonstruck for the 300th time.

After enduring a fun lecture called Measurements for Dummies, I learned that apparently, liquids are measured using something called liters.

“I’ve had conversations with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” I said, defensively.

Marc tapped my forehead and tried to walk away.

I was still confused.

“So I fill the tub up for five whole minutes and then use liters to dump it out and measure the water that way?”

Marc stopped, bit his lip and waited for my brain to catch up with my mouth.

“Hold on!” I exclaimed. “We can fill up a 5-liter bucket for a minute with the shower head and then a minute with the faucet and just multiply each measurement by 5 minutes. Right?”

“Is this science project supposed to be your lesson or Jake’s?”

I called my boys and had them finish up on their own. Jacob did the water and Zachary measured candles.

Eventually, after three near-floods and breaking almost eleven different fire codes, they finished gathering data and went about the job of displaying their findings on cardboard placards.

I’m aware that some parents complete these projects for their children and hire truckers to haul everything over to the school auditorium.

I guess I’m one of those old-fashioned (read: lazy) parents because I insist my children do the projects themselves.

My job is to provide helpful feedback like, “That color scheme makes me want to gouge out my eyes with red hot pokers.”

Marc’s job is to drive to the store four times to get more construction paper and spray adhesive that violates anti-drug laws and contributes to global warming.

“I asked for glue,” Zachary said.

“Get the paper masks we bought for a swine flu epidemic,” I told him, “and I’ll spray this on your board.”

In the end, we learned that colored candles burn quicker than white, a bath uses less water than a shower, and Mommy is happier *after* using the spray adhesive.