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What My Kid Did After Being Rejected From the Science Fair

Not long ago, I chuckled when I saw this photo come across my Facebook feed. It was funny. And I had been seeing a lot of people publicly bemoan the arrival of science fair season. But my family’s view is very different.

The day the flyer about the science fair came home from school, my daughter was stoked. She had an idea and wanted me to help her begin her research right away.

It was a topic she is passionate about—endangered species. Specifically, how the production of palm oil impacts some of them. She had heard about the issue from a number of sources but had yet to dig deep and learn more.

Now she wanted to do so.

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We headed to my computer together. Within an hour, we had collected some fascinating information. She was off and running. Or so we thought.

The following day her teacher informed me the flyer had not been entirely accurate. Kindergarteners are not allowed to compete individually in the school’s science fair. They could only do so as a class.

So I got on the computer again, this time searching for an event she could participate in. I wanted to encourage her passion rather than see it squashed. I wanted her to have the opportunity to turn it into action. I found an independent, citywide science festival not associated with any particular school district.

The catch? It was a team event. A minimum of two students was required. I talked to my daughter about it, and she decided to invite two good friends of hers, sisters, to join her team.

I reached out to their mom, and she thought it was a great idea. Her daughters were equally as enthusiastic. We were back on track.

Over the course of the next several months, the girls worked with an expert from our local zoo, doing research and planning a display based on the principles of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics). We worked to incorporate the strengths and ideas of each team member.

Did it take a lot of time and effort on all our parts? Yes. Did it sometimes take away from other things we could be doing? Of course. Do I consider any of that to be negative? No!

The girls learned a lot, developed valuable skills and, most importantly, had fun. After presenting their booth to hundreds of people at the festival, they were awarded second place in the elementary division, based on popular vote. They were the youngest participants.

Their booth was also prominently featured in our local paper, helping spread their message of conservation to an even wider audience. They were so proud.

I understand a science fair is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for my daughter and her friends it was an awesome experience.

For now, at least, we cannot be counted among the haters.

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Photo Credit: Susan Messina

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