Monday, February 24, 2014

This Is Why I Don't Teach Science

There's a meme going around Facebook these days (see it below): it's a display board a mother made up -- spoofing those done for science fairs -- that explains how families hate to do science fairs. I've been tempted to share in on my own wall, but I've resisted.  My bad attitude doesn't need to be spread.

Because the science fair is driving us crazy right now.  Actually, we haven't even gotten to the science fair part -- the display and all.  The experiment alone is doing us in.

And feeling rather guilty about it all because I'm convinced that the only reason my daughter is struggling through this is because she inherited my science-deficit genes. Science doesn't work for me. Oh, I can understand the concepts . . . in fact, I enjoy reading and hearing about it.  But my experiments never work.  Never.

I think I've already shared my high school Chemistry woes. Mr. Judd told us that, if we wanted an A or B for the final semester grade, we needed to come after class and do an extra experiment. He gave us a test tube with a substance in it, and we had to determine what the substance was and how much of it was in there.  Every time I did this experiment, the empty test tube weighed more than the test tube with the substance in it.  Every time.  And I stayed after school several days to repeat that experiment five or six times.  Once, I had Mr. Judd walk through the whole process with me to see what I was doing wrong. "You must have discovered a negative weight," he said.  I couldn't tell if he was mocking me or not.

In any case, several years of failed homeschool science experiments later, I have come to the logical conclusion that there is something in my genes that makes this stuff not work. It's a sad thing. Pity me. And thank the Lord that your medical well-being is not in my hands.

But as I said, my youngest seems to have inherited this deficiency. Her experiment is about the effects of caffeine on heart rate. She chose three caffeinated beverages -- diet Coke, McDonald's coffee, and Monster -- and did three trials on each, testing how a cup of each affected her heart rate.

The first aggravation was trying to control all the potential variables. We had to do each trial at the same time every day . . . she had to get up at the same time each of those mornings and eat the same thing for breakfast . . . and when you add the trials with the control beverage of water, that's twelve days we had to do this. Twelve days where our morning schedule was dominated by this stupid experiment.

But what's even MORE aggravating is that her results are the OPPOSITE of what she hypothesized. Her heart rate went down with the Monster (dramatically on her last trial).  It went down with coffee (although she has one more trial with that today).  Diet Coke was more variable: down the first trial, the same on the second trial, and up on the third.

And get this: every trial with her control beverage, her heart rate went UP.  Water increased her heart rate. And Monster made it plummet. Go figure.

We don't know what to do with this. It's possible there were other variables involved that we weren't aware of and didn't control. (I suspected from the beginning that the thought of having to drink the coffee -- nasty stuff! -- sent her heart rate soaring before she started those trials.) It's also possible that she just has a wonky heart. But her results are due in class tomorrow, and next week is the science fair; we have no time to redo it or do something else.

Sigh . . . I hate science.

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