Pinterest: The Adults’ Source of Science Projects

einsteinlaughingScience projects aren’t just for school-aged children. There are plenty of opportunities for adults – and not just to help their children. Adults simply choose from a different and vast array of skills, tools, imagination, budget and sense of adventure, capability, talent. (Take your pick.) My unscientific observation is that the popularity of Pinterest (and the various flavors of Craftgawker) probably have more hits than Google searches for ‘how-to’. This observation is supported by the numerous blog posts and sites that can be found by searching the term ‘pinterest fails’.

Whenever I need a really good laugh I read about such (mis)adventures. It’s the current definition of Weekend Warriors. And I don’t do it to make fun of anyone. I simply remember what it was like to have a science project fail – miserably. It was a lesson learned from The Fifth Rule:

“You have taken yourself too seriously.”

Back in the day, it was called junior high, not middle school – which made us feel pumped up with self-importance and the mistaken belief that we were almost adults (without being held legally responsible for our actions). After all, we were nearly teenagers with know-it-all attitudes. And there was no internet, so we were confined to encyclopedias and library books to choose a project.

Judy and I decided to partner. We’d been friends since second grade, sometimes met up along the main drag on the walk to school, and lived in adjoining neighborhoods so it was an easy bike ride to work on our project after school. There was no science fair or prizes for the ‘best’ project. This was a class assignment for which our reward would be a grade in the form of a letter ranging from A-F for our endeavors. That being the case, our parents weren’t about to buy us any fancy supplies since they paid taxes for the schools and since this was not an extra-curricular activity, the school should be supplying all the necessary materials… So we had to choose a project for which we could use found ‘stuff‘ in our parents’ houses.

I don’t remember the specifics of the project, but I think it involved batteries – and vinegar. Whatever. We did not get ‘expected results‘. Nor were there any explosions.  Nothing happened – at all. No reaction of any kind. We had no idea what we did wrong. We followed the directions exactly. So we called Mr. Science from our class who lived next door to Judy. We’d been calling him that since third grade. Not as a put-down, but as recognition of his identity as a geek. Surely he would be able to determine where we went wrong.

He questioned. He examined. He reviewed all our data. And he concluded he had no clue why it didn’t work. His project, of course, worked.

Success or failure, we still had to present our experiment to our class: the humiliation of “What is that supposed to be?” and The Steenking Documentation. As we all know from the pinterest fails, The Steenking Documentation is how you succeed in getting an ‘A’ for a miserable fail.

Maybe the batteries had half-lives. Maybe we needed a different brand of vinegar. Perhaps we should have tried the experiment in the garage instead of the kitchen. Maybe we should have drunk wine while we were experimenting.

Variables.

Even Einstein dealt with them. And no one considers him a failure.

Simply remember The Fifth Rule and laugh when you visit Pinterest and think “Hey, I can do that!”  And grab a bottle of wine.  It probably couldn’t hurt.

 

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