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Surviving S. P. Season
by Beth Boswell Jacks

This is the time of year, Science Project Season, that I (as scientifically inclined as a spaghetti noodle) used to dread like the pox when my kids were small. I could always guide them when it came to memorizing capitals of states, penning essays, creating dioramas in shoe boxes, even figuring algebra problems, but they were completely out of luck when it came to Mama’s science project ingenuity. I had none.

As a matter of fact, the only D I ever made in my whole academic career was in college Biology. Years later, running into my professor at a football game, I told him: “You gave me the only D I ever got in school.” He looked at me and said, “Dear, I didn’t give you that D . . . you earned every single point.”

He was right, of course. Truth is, I was mighty proud to get the D at the time and get the heck out of that class. Axons and dendrites? Contractile vacuoles? Photosynthesis? Yawwwnnnnn.

Besides, I take great comfort in this quotation from Robert L. Weber’s SCIENCE WITH A SMILE: “It is disconcerting to reflect on the number of students we have flunked in chemistry for not knowing what we later found to be untrue.”

Uh huh. That’s right.

So, anyway, I made it through college Biology and thought I was through with anything remotely connected to science, except having babies and de-worming the dog.

But then came those dratted science projects.

I tried. I really tried. Beginning with our eldest, I gave it my best shot.

Back around Spring, 1981, daughter Emily and her friend Jennifer were 11-year-old science project partners. I don’t know where "big" Emily (Jennifer’s mother) was, and why she didn’t guide them with this headache, but I was game. I mean, even a dummy can come up with a decent science project on the elementary level, right?


Camera in hand, I took the girls to the lumber company to get their tri-fold plywood display. If nothing else, we were going to have a classy display--no cardboard for us. Back home in the garage, I snapped pictures right and left as Emily and Jennifer went to work constructing their fabulous project. I captured every minute of this scientific adventure on film.

On science project day I hauled the heavy tri-fold plywood thing, adorned with gorgeous pictures and lettering, to the school. I made extra trips to lug in the cardtable and chairs and whatever else the girls needed for a pleasant science project day.

Proudly, we spread the display on the table. We were looking good. As the judges made their rounds, this is what they found at our little scientists' station.

Beautifully pasted on the left panel:
(1) “Here’s a picture of Emily and Jennifer at the lumber company buying their plywood.”
(2) “Here’s a picture of Emily and Jennifer in Emily’s garage painting their plywood panels.”
(3) “Here’s a picture of Emily and Jennifer screwing the hinges on the plywood display.”
(4) “Here’s a picture of Emily and Jennifer taking a break with chocolate ice cream as paint dries on the plywood tri-fold . . .”

Had enough? The judges did too. They didn’t linger long over this “science” project. (I couldn’t tell you for the world what was glued on the other sections of the display. Don’t even ask.)

I did better the next S. P. Season when I helped daughter Bethany secure a big sponge to a board. We stuck a stick through the sponge and posted neatly printed explanations describing what was happening with this “sharp splinter embedded in flesh” exhibit. But she didn’t win either.

Our sons always did volcanoes and battery projects their dad supervised, but hubby G-Man is less scientific than I am, so the boys bombed too.

I don’t know why we’re all such dingalings when it comes to scholarly pursuits in the area of science, but as a wise chemist friend once told me, “Don’t worry, Beth. It takes alkynes to make the world.”

I think I get it.


Beth Jacks, editor of USADEEPSOUTH.COM, writes a weekly personal essay/humor column for a number of Deep South newspapers and is the author of Grit, Guts, and Baseball, a book about sports and race relations in the Mississippi Delta.
Her two SNIPPETS books (more info) are collections of her newspapers columns.
Read more of her columns by clicking here: SNIPPETS

Contact her at bethjacks@hotmail.com.

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