During science fair project time, parents call to ask questions about purchasing a kit for their child or to ask a question about a kit that they already purchased. The following is a very typical conversation and this one occurred this last Thursday. The names of the people have been changed.
A mother called me up to ask a question about the PicoTurbine Windmill that she purchased for her son's science fair project. When asked how old her son was, she said 13. I then requested that she put her son on the phone so I could answer his questions, for certainly he was old enough to take charge of his science fair project. What prompted me to do this was that she started off the conversation saying, "We have a science fair project and..."
No, there is no "we". This was her son's science fair project and she needed to give him the space to own it.
During the conversation with Tom, Jane constantly interrupted, talked about extraneous stuff, and finally I said to her in the nicest voice I could muster, "Please, allow Tom to ask his questions and share his thoughts, for this is his project and he really seems to have a good handle on what he wants to accomplish."
Her silence only lasted until the middle of her son's next sentence.
"Jane, this is Tom's project, please let him be in charge of this conversation."
This did not stop her and it was a constant struggle for her son to keep his space and own his assignment.
I ended the conversation with the following thoughts:
"Tom, the most important thing that you can learn from a science fair project is that when you change one minute thing in life, everything changes and everyone around you must change.
If you change the material of the blade that you use for the PicoTurbine Windmill experiment, ask yourself, 'What happens to the speed of the windmill, the air? What other changes do I notice? How do I feel when these changes occur?' Notice the effectiveness of the windmill, the things around it and the response you have to those changes.'
It is a profound experience to become aware of the fact that when you change one thing in life everything changes around it. What you do makes a difference. And that is what science fair projects are really all about.
That is what scientists do. They test and retest to see which change produces the most effective response. Then they go back and test again to find an even more effective way of doing things."
Parents, teachers, and caregivers... what message are you giving your child or students? What questions are you asking them? What space are you giving them to learn and grow?