My Hypothesis

Science Project

I have a hypothesis:  The Science Fair is a pain in the butt.

I have another hypothesis:  Most parents hate their child’s science teacher during the weeks prior to the Science Fair.

Here is my proof –

Today I spent three hours coloring with magic markers.  Michelle’s hypothesis is that Sharpie markers last longer than Crayola or the Target generic brand.  She is correct.  I have the marker stains on my kitchen countertops and my middle finger knuckle to prove it.

And how did testing magic markers become science?  She’ll probably grow up and get a job at Consumer Reports.

At our school, science projects are mandatory for all 4th and 7th graders.  Since my children were born in three-year increments, we typically have two mandatories at a time.

When DJ was 8, my overeager third grader decided she and her friend would enter a project into the Science Fair for extra credit.  Who needs frickin’ extra credit when they already have an A?

Her friend’s father was an engineer so he spearheaded the project.  We met at my office.  The experiment had something to do with conductivity.  I thought we were going to the symphony.  Imagine my disappointment when we met at my office, and he pulled out a bunch of wires.

He meticulously explained each step of the electrical process, and if I recall correctly, at the end he told us we were right about our hypothesis.  The problem was that neither third grader, nor one of the third grader’s fathers understood what we had done.

When he left my office, DJ looked at me puzzled, “Dad, I didn’t really understand that.”

“Me neither.  Wanna go to the symphony?”

When Lisa was sick, Stephanie decided her project would be to determine if Zip Lock bags, fold over sandwich bags or plastic wrap kept vegetables fresher longer.  It was January, and Lisa was recovering from surgery to remove her tumor.

On this Sunday morning, Stephanie and I decided it was about time to tackle the project which was due in three weeks.  We headed to the grocery store to buy our goods:  baggies and plastic wrap – check; green peppers – check; onions – check; tomatoes – check.  As we were standing in the check out lane, my phone rang.  It was Lisa.

“Honey, I blacked out in the shower.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I feel dizzy and weak.  I had to crawl to the phone.”

“I’ll be right there.”

I quickly paid, and we ran to the car.  Thinking back on it, perhaps I shouldn’t have taken the time to pay.  But the damn science project was about to be due, and we had weeks of rotting vegetables we had to observe.

When I got home, Lisa was in bed and was waiting for a call back from the surgeon – it could be hours.  So I began the process of chopping up our veggies while Stephanie made labels to identify each one.

For the Science Fair, you have to complete your experiment three times.  The teacher wants to make sure that you are fully tortured – a slight torment just wouldn’t do.

We cut 9 pieces of pepper, 9 pieces of onion and 9 pieces of tomato.  Each piece was labeled and put into its container – Experiment 1, onion, Zip Lock; Experiment 1, onion, sandwich bag; Experiment 1, onion, plastic wrap.  Oh, and we took a photo of each of the 27 veggies along with its label.

We put all of them on a tray and set them in the refrigerator.

About the time we finished, Lisa got the call.  The surgeon wanted us to check back into Duke for a couple of nights so he observe her.  I called my mother-in-law and asked her to come stay with the kids.

About 6:30 pm, I was sitting in the hospital room watching the evening news when my phone rang.


“Yea Steph.”

“You’re not going to believe this.”


“Nana started making a salad with our science project!”

Oh $%&#!  “Seriously?”

Lisa laughed so hard she nearly fell out of her moveable bed.


“How did that happen?”

“I don’t know.  I just walked in the kitchen and she was pulling tomatoes out of the bags and tossing them into a big glass bowl.”

Son-of-a- “Just toss them back into  bags – and make sure the onions go into a bag labeled onion!”

I hung up, unable to speak.  I’d spent three hours chopping, labeling and yes, even photographing vegetables, and Nana was well on her way to creating a scrumptious garden salad with our study.

Lisa consoled me, “This is your first year with the Science Fair baby.  You’re doing a good job.  And seriously, are they going to flunk a kid whose mother has stage IV cancer?”

Both of my kids got A’s that year – probably a nod of sympathy.

This time, Stephanie decided to prove that girls were smarter than boys by seeing which sex could perform better on a word search.  It looks like the girls might have won the 4th grade test.  The planned 7th grade test has hit a snag.  All of the boys have refused to return their parental permission slip to be a science project lacky.

Either they’re scared of the potential results or they are indeed the smartest!

Leave a comment


  1. I literally laughed out loud with the salad! That is so funny!

  2. Susan

     /  January 23, 2013

    I love it when I see a new post from you… are a gifted writer but even more a really amazing father… a military spouse, the projects are always my responsibility and a few years ago, I told my husband that I wanted to collect all the projects and put them in a closet and then rent them out to other families to avoid the pain !!

    • Danny Tanner

       /  January 24, 2013

      that is a great idea! ours would never win – but who cares. a finished project is a finished project.

  3. Aunt Susan

     /  January 23, 2013

    Teachers hate science projects too! or at least I do. We I don’t make the kids do them alone, we do them in class.That way no projects run the risk of being dinner!
    one of your funnier ones.

  4. Michelle

     /  January 23, 2013

    As a science teacher I resemble those comments! And laughed my butt off! (PS… our schools science fair is tomorrow… it’s mandatory for all 6th ,7th, and 8th graders!)

  5. I really enjoyed this–there are so many things going on in this post, and so many positive, life affirming things, that it made me smile–as did the thought of Nana using your perfectly sliced and diced vegetables to make a salad. And it made me dread the science project years which are inevitably coming up in our house…

    • Danny Tanner

       /  January 25, 2013

      You’ll get through it – and much as I complain, it’s what it’s all about! Spending that time coloring with Sharpie markers.


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