Parents, who does your child’s science fair project?

Science Fair Parents DNA Cartoon

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?

7 thoughts on “Parents, who does your child’s science fair project?

  1. Coaching Resources says:

    As parents, we always yearn the best for our kids and that they will have a good project to submit. However, if they did not do the project themselves, how will they learn? It is important that they have a hands on on it. If you want to help, it’s best if you will just be there to supervise. From Your Life Coach

  2. personal loan contract says:

    The questions you have asked truly made me think. What am I giving my kid to learn and know more things in science. I am in the process of answering your questions by asking myself endless questions like these. Thanks for your thought provoking blog posts and inspiring ideas for my kids.

  3. Gloria Maldonado says:

    I am completely aware of the fact that the science fair is for the student to work on. I do support my kid’s independence and growth through him been responsible of his own stuff.

    What should I do if it is his first time participating and the school did not provide enough information to help them. I have called the school and left many messages to talk with the teacher and director and none of them have been answered. I also personally spoke with the teacher but had some doubts later, it is also my first time involved in it. What do you suggest?

    • sunshine says:

      Get a book that takes you through the steps of doing a science fair project. Here is an ebook that I wrote to help kids and parents develop a science fair project, where the parent is the coach.

      You can be a coach by asking questions and helping your child to figure out what to do next. You are their guide. That is the difference between doing the project for your child and coaching them.

      Go through the process with your child by asking questions. Only cover the sections that apply to what your son needs to do.

      Science fair projects take a lot of work and really, the teacher’s job is to guide the kids through the process the first time. In fact, she needs to be taking the whole class, step by step, as a group, and do it with them first. This is not a parent’s job.

      I am such a rebel I would call all the parents I know, come to the school, and quietly protest the assignment until the kids are given instruction.

  4. msmomma says:

    I thank you for saying what you have said. My son has had a science fair project the last three years. The last two years he wanted me to do the work. I did to keep him from getting a zero. He won one year but I would not let him take it on to the next level. I told his teachers that he did not do the project, i did. If they wanted to give him a zero i understood. They didn’t but did understand and was glad I came forth.

    This year his project is due in days. He has all the material for this project and yet just lets it sit. I will not do the project this year. Help, yes I a,ways help my kids and love doing it but it is time for him to take responsibility and do his own work.

    What do you do when you give the child all the space in the world. he still wants everybody else including his teachers to do it for him. I just had this meeting with his teachers and it has been an own going problem. I try and yet the father just lets him do nothing. We live in the same home I might add. It has trickled down on our daughter and now she wants to slack on her work too. Both are very smart children

    • sunshine says:

      Being a parent and grandmother I bet this is one of the hardest things you ever did.

      I don’t know how old your child is but something is stopping him from succeeding. You need to check to see if he has any learning diabilities, ADD/ADHD, check his vision.

      If it were my child I would take him to see a transformational therapist who could probably get to the bottom of the issue in a brief time. Private email me and I can refer you to various kinds.

  5. Holly Jahangiri says:

    When I read messages like this, I feel a bit less inadequate as a mother.

    I don’t have the energy to do middle school over again. I don’t have the heart to live vicariously through my children, and repeat high school and college.

    I’m here to support them and nudge them and occasionally give them a shove. I’m also here to stand back and let them fail, now and then, so they don’t experience failure for the first time in mid-life, when it’s most painful and makes for a much harder lesson to learn.

    I feel strangely out of step, some days, that I’m happy with my own life and don’t really care to live THEIRS, too. Sure, I’d help with a science project – I’d hold pieces together while the glue dries, or take directions from my child. I’d even edit a term paper (lightly); I’m a professional writer and have edited my kids’ work right up to a C+ on occasion. 😉

    What do THEY learn if I do it for them? What do I NEED to learn from repeating 7th Grade, for Heaven’s sake?

    It’s just more meaningful when you achieve something on your own. I don’t want to rob my kids of that. And thank you for reminding us that that does NOT make us inadequate parents.

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