jade in the parke

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Science Fair Projects Part 3: Janice Van Cleave Weighs in!

If you are an educator or administrator, please weigh in with your comments! Let's take this wonderful ball that Susan pushed down the hill and keep it rolling! 

BACKSTORY: After seeing this poster peppering my facebook feed, I pinned it, but had no idea how to give the proper attribution to the creator. ==>

After an hour or so of googling, I found the original Huffington Post article and the link within for Susan Messina's facebook page. I am not sure how they found it, but it was a brilliant gem. I wrote my post here, and sent a message to Susan with the link. She and I began an interchange that morphed from an idea for a comment posted, to doing a Q & A to a full blown article that was eventually published. The story will be picked up by a larger blogging platform on the national stage. Stay tuned.

The ideas discussed were how to do science fair projects that give each child an even playing field. One of her educator friends suggested that kids should do projects at home with just the supplies of paper and a pencil.

I have thought a great deal about that: How is a science fair project done at home that is required by our local public elementary school to be TYPED with computer made graphs NOT a measure of the parents' abilities? Our school system is one of the best in the country serving a highly educated population. But the child who has a college educated parent with mad Excel skills will have a project that shines compared to a child whose parents may have to work very long hours, more than one job to make ends meet or be a single parent working and is just surviving. Are science fair projects DONE AT HOME truly a testament to the child's learning or the parents?  Let's discuss this very important educational epoch for our kids! How do we keep the educational value, preserve family time and respect the fact that kids don't come from similar educational backgrounds while teaching the scientific method?

I contacted Janice Van Cleave who has written many books on this topic and whose materials I used in my homeschool to see if she would like to weigh in and follow up on her comments to Susan. I am so honored that she left her comments which I have included below (edited down from the original which included her insights into her particular state, Texas and their educational system).  

Susan, I must admit that I join your campaign to stop the lunacy of what is being called science fair projects. The attention of the entire world focused on your poster expressing how the majority of kids, parents and yes, even teachers feel---Everyone HATES Science Fair Projects.So, Let's Fix it. 1. Any one assigning a mandatory science fair project must go home with students and help them prepare it. 2. I agree with Susan about elementary projects. Science Projects at the elementary level should be done at school.
Know that I am very passionate about science and loved what could be in the past called "Science Fair Projects." My students from middle and high schools did projects some that were entered in district, regional and one entered the International Science Fair. It was fun for the kids, and a chance for kids of all abilities to be proud of their work. NOT ANY MORE---- Susan's poster could be on any billboard--maybe someone will put it there to let our run-a-muck education system know that enough is enough. Just like the requirements of science fair projects, educational demands for testing and collecting data on our children is strangling any spark of excitement left in our teachers. What lunatic demands that kindergarten kids give a hypothesis? But even more absurd is for any teacher to tell kids to think of a topic and then write down a question about that topic they want to solve. It cannot be just any question, it has to have one independent variable and one dependent variable. I forget, to solve this problem the experiment must have measurable results--in metric measurements. YIKES! Most elementary teachers are honest enough to admit they just want kids to take the textbook length instruction booklet home--bring back a poster board with something glued on it and don't asked them any questions. I am retired from writing and publishing books. My time is now spent tutoring local kids as well as kids on line for free.  I will stop now and design a few posters of my own. Fluorescent colored poster board is what I need. 
But for now: Here are some ideas for making changes to science fair projects: scienceprojectideasforkids.comLet's all join together and fix the wrongs in education. Thanks Susan.

Thank you, Janice! Please check out her resources if you are looking for help. 

Her passion, the emotions in Susan's poster, the viral response to it & my personal experiences that spurred this series is hitting on something, people! Please comment with your ideas and experiences.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Story behind the Fake Science Fair Board

If you saw the "Everyone Hates the Science Fair!" board that was floating around on the blogosphere last month 
The Poster that started a revolution.

or you read my take on it HERE
My friends, you are in for a treat as I am pleased to introduce to you the full story written by the author herself. 
How often do you find out the story behind a viral meme? 
Let's engage on this worthy issue, shall we? 

The Story behind the Fake Science Fair Board
By Susan Messina

Chances are, if you are the parent of a school-age child and you were on the Internet at all the week of February 17, 2014, you saw the bright yellow fake science board with the provocative question, “How Much Turmoil Does the Science Fair Cause Families?” The finding? Of course, “Everyone HATES the science fair!”

A lot of people, and I mean a whole lot of people, thought this was pretty darn funny. The photo of the board went viral, spinning through the Internet through a variety of social media and landing on Facebook pages and in Twitter feeds and inboxes across the world.  Without a doubt, it struck a nerve. The comments revealed the deep loathing felt by many parents about this educational rite of passage. Millions of people saw, shared, and “liked” it on Facebook and other platforms.

Perhaps you thought it was a real project, done by a real (smart-aleck) child. Perhaps you thought it was done by a parent who is against science education. Maybe you were offended because you or your child loves the science fair. So here’s the truth.

I’m a 50-year-old mother of one who created the board as an inside joke three years ago when my daughter was a fifth grader at a public school and she was completing her fifth science fair project, amidst tears and anger. (The tears were hers, the anger mine.)

It was never submitted for a grade (although a lot of people have told me I got an A!).  It has never even left my house; I certainly didn’t bring it to the actual science fair—tempted though I was—because it would have hurt the feelings of all the kids who had worked hard on their projects. 

I’m definitely not anti-science or anti-intellectual in any way. I graduated from Bryn Mawr College and I hold three master’s degrees. I believe that STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) fields are crucial and that, in fact, more women should enter them. Rock on, young scientists and engineers!

However, given the level of rage I have felt during the completion of my daughter’s science fair projects—and the overwhelmingly positive response my fake board has received, there is something wrong with competitive, elementary school science fairs.  So, here’s what I think.

First, any elementary school project that requires a lot of parental time, energy, resources, support, cajoling, and financial investment is just BAD. Such projects privilege students from higher-income families for all the obvious reasons. They also take away from family time that families at all income levels have less of these days. And they definitely are a challenge for the millions of students who live with parents coping with physical illness, mental illness, and/or substance abuse.

Therefore, I’m a strong believe that elementary school projects should be done in class. Science is so important, in fact, that doesn't it make sense to have trained teachers teaching the scientific method rather than a ragtag bunch of parents? I was thrilled when my daughter started middle school and the sixth grade science teachers had the students complete the entire project in class, including the PowerPoint presentation.

But, what if a school is still really wed to the science fair? How about this:  Re-cast it as an elective, noncompetitive family project. If the science fair were re-imagined so that families could decide to explore some cool thing and then truly do it together, we'd get rid of the sham that the kids are doing the projects by themselves (maybe some do, but it seems pretty rare). We'd add in the factor of being able to do more complicated/interesting projects because parental involvement would be assumed. And, by getting rid of the stupid competition aspect, we wouldn't have kids (or, let's be clear, parents) competing to see who does the coolest project or the spiffiest board. Doesn't this sound like a much better idea—and maybe even fun?

Janice Van Cleave, who is well-known in science education circles, wrote to me on Facebook after seeing my board and said, “Susan, I love your science fair display. Sadly it reveals the truth. You have encouraged me to write new rules for elementary science fair projects.”

If millions of parents, and even someone like Janice Van Cleave, see the truth in my joke, something needs to be done. I’d love to have more of a national dialogue about this. Surely, we can figure out a better way to excite students about STEM fields.

To see my original board: Click here

To see George Takei’s posting of it: Click here
Huffington Post: Click here
imgur: Click Here

·         http://mom.me/in-the-loop/11195-moms-science-project-gets-heart-why-we-all-hate-science-projects

Thank you so much, Susan! I am so privileged to be the conduit for your thoughts. What do you think, readers? Do you agree? Disagree?

Please share this article. Would you consider pinning, tweeting, "liking", emailing and sharing this with others? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Musings on science fairs, parenting fails and the lure to compare? Comments welcome!

UPDATE: The creator of this poster has responded. Check out her views on my blog HERE & was picked up by the Huffington Post Parents HERE

So here's what got me laughing, reading, or wasting time on the interwebs for the last little bit of time:

aka The Measure of the Parents' Ability to Plan in Advance & To Be Organized to Actually Get the Mold Growing in time, etc.
(Click on the picture to read the original Huffington Post article that came out in February)

My first thought was, "Yes!"
The second thought brought laughter & "I thought this was just us".
Isn't that what makes something hilarious? Or a meme go viral?
Life's little hi jinks brought forth in truth with a dash of sarcasm and in community so we can say a collective, 
"Amen. Preach."

So, I guess all over America, in little towns, pre-planned communities, great metropolis centers, there is a quiet desperation that is nagging all of us in the middle of February. Not just, where is that pesky tax statement? 
But can my kid get it done? Okay, let's be honest, can I get it done?
Kids need help and my goal is to encourage, teach, assist my child through this rite of passage like the research paper with those dratted index cards. I deeply love my children, but nothing gets me more red in the head, than the realization the week before the science fair that honey takes 3 weeks to crystallize (I actually have no idea how long it takes....yet). Or that the project chosen is too expansive and that there is no way to do "good science", i.e., the scientific method with such a vast topic. And your docile child is now a stickler for the rules, because she turned in her idea already for approval and it is too late to change.

The science fair project is more of a statement on my capability to parent and to prepare my child for the future (No, taxes aren't due April 17th). There are deadlines to be met. 
Procrastination is the steady companion, panic is our energy.
Whenever, I encouraged a work session on their project, I heard moans. If I turned my back for a second, they were gone and the house became eerily quiet. Nagging, incremental steps toward the finish line and then the last flurry of activity to get 'er done adding new input to Susan Messina's statistic of parents yelling/kids crying chart.

Then, the day arrived. All is done. My hair piled up in a bun held together by a pencil, the kitchen table littered with glue guns, card stock, paint brushes, scissors and empty tape containers. Just fifteen minutes before we need to leave we realize that we are in the middle of an adhesive rebellion as graphs are popping off the board in quick succession. We left in a rush and willed the thingies to stick by some sheer force 
(I exaggerated: We ripped through our entire stock of 3M Removable wall poster strips in 3 minutes).

We show up at the fair:  A tri-fold display board in the trunk, flying high on coffee, bleary eyed, and thankful that IT IS FINISHED. A father passed me as I entered, smiling with gritted teeth, "I am SO glad today is the Science Fair", not that he is psyched to be here, but relieved that the stress is finally going to be over. Another mom and I actually jumped up as we high fived saying, "We did it!" with as much enthusiasm as two basketball players in the Final Four. 
Yup, WE DID it. 

As I looked at other kids' projects displayed on banquet tables in unending rows, I had to fight the inner critic that said, 
"Their parents MUST have helped them!"

Oh, the need to compare ourselves. 
Vacillating between, "How did they do that?", "I am so inadequate"
and the opposite extreme:
"I guess they just procrastinated. My child's looks really nice (Code word: Professional)."
What about the science fair brings this out in us?
Ladies and gents, the yuck is already there in our hearts. 
But for the grace of God, go I. 
You are just as needy as I am, even if you have your ducks in a row. 
If you struggle with trying to measure up or feeling just a tiny bit arrogant that you got it together.
That desire to compare is a voice from the basement or the pit of hell as I affectionately call it. 
This is the struggle with sin for suburban parents: 
We compare our insides with others' outsides. 
We need to be rescued from...ourselves. 
So, when the whispers of inadequacy or the judgment of others' messy lives, start to form in your heart, what do you do? 
To whom do you turn? 
Does comparison lead to discontentment?
The science fair is the lens to show me my heart. Oh, yeah, and to teach the scientic method.

Let's discuss in the comments! I want to hear what you do when you start the dance of comparison.

Grace and Peace to you!

Click HERE to read the post from the creator of the this viral Science Fair poster!
The best part was seeing the children interact and explain their board to the teachers. The dedication of the staff was a loving antidote to my cynical heart.
Yep, I see that pie graph flapping in the wind.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

UPDATED: Adaptive skiing or bust


Enjoy this fun highlight reel:

Please click on the link to share this video or if it doesn't open in your browser: http://youtu.be/qPbQaxmklsE

Live blogging...Adaptive skiing

First time...
Gary and Sonny making adjustments
They were adjusting her equipment in the Yerk (Mongolian Tent adjacent to the rental building at www.skiwhitetail.com)
Sonny, one of her guides, getting her noggin protected.
Bill from TwoTopAdaptive.org whose glowing jacket makes him look like an angel (which to us, he was!)
She popped out of her wheelchair at the end of the walkway, locked her legs and walked onto the snow.
Her three amigos strap her into the bi ski
Her poles are cuffed and strapped to her arms and they hope she can use them to help her steer.


There were some dry runs to get her lifted in the Bi-Ski to catch a ride on the ski lift:

Then they jacked up the seat which tilted her forward, and queued up for the lift:
As the bench lift comes up behind them, they lift her onto the seat and use a carbiner to clip her into the seat as well as pull the bar down. Yes, it freaked me out for 3.9 seconds.

Her first ride down the mountain. They held tight to her as she was learning how to lean and use her poles to turn. Here is the direct link: http://youtu.be/uyOO-D0bW2g

What does Abby say? Before she went she told me who had a copy of her will:
If you are having trouble viewing this, please click here to to watch it on YouTube.

Here is the link again.

And then, when it was over?  With a huge smile on her face, she quipped, 
"You have just fed an expensive habit!" 
Now, she is watching Sochi and talking about how she can get to the Olympics! Love our girl!

Friday, February 7, 2014


Once there was a girl strong and true who wanted to be a writer when she grew up. She cherished her dream: A famous author, maybe a children’s writer, the world was her oyster. 

The time and place where she lived was not for dreamers. This place had just endured hard days of war. Years of war where her Pap was stationed in India and life was uncertain and the women back home in the U.S. of A were tough and smart. No more did she just have to be a wife and mother only, but she could work and have a career. But her Pap wanted her to be sensible and true and have a future. 
Nursing it was to be. 
She did things in the right order: Starched white uniforms, marrying her high school sweetheart, writing when time allowed. 
Time allowed her to write when her first born son lay fighting for his life. 
Opening her broken heart to the world where she was scared wasn’t sensible, but it was noble and true. Writing came out in peeks and spurts until this smart, strong woman decided to live her dream. She retired, she stayed married to her sweetheart and now she was allowed this luxury. 
She wrote and she believed and she dreamed and she finished it. 
She hawked. Gave up. 
And then this little girl, a child of the Second War, a daughter of the greatest generation, who was the good girl and did the right thing, 
saw her name of the New York Times Best Seller List. Astonished. 

This is post is dedicated to my lovely mother-in-law writing and living her dream right now.  Please go visit her! It was part of a writing exercise where you are given a one word writing prompt by LisaJo Baker at 12:01am on Fridays. Then you write, with no editing, no chickening out and then put yourself out there. Click on the link below to join in!

Five Minute Friday
 This post was inspired by my first #fmfparty and the prompt was "Write". You are more than welcome to join.

Monday, January 13, 2014

{FREE PRINTABLE} Baby Shower Game


 At the end of my post is an opportunity to receive a gift that will appeal to anyone, anywhere having to plan a baby shower and are stumped for a game plan like my husband was. 

Yes, my husband. 

Nothing will make him just start laughing harder out of the blue as when he remembers the surreal experience of being tasked to plan a baby shower for a female co-worker. He has been on the receiving end at least 3 times at work for his own children, but to be the guy who had to brainstorm decorations, food (he had a great partner who took care of this), presents and games had him scratching his head. And while leading the mad libs type of game he wrote for the shower, he felt like he was having an out of body experience. I am just glad that it wasn't a bridal shower. That could just be plain awkward in the gift category. 

This weekend I was honored to be asked to come up with a classy baby shower game for the cutest first time Mom to be. I thought about "Design a 3D baby" out of toilet paper and then she could choose the cutest one. I mean, is there no "shower" game that can't use that ubiquitous product?

But I thought for a moment, came to my senses that was just plain creepy and moved on.

Then, bam, my husband's mad lib came to mind, we all giggled again, and then I got crackin' by searching the world wide webs for an easy way to make one. Well, four hours later and many false starts, I gave up and whacked myself in the head, because then I remembered that I always forget when doing anything digital for the first time: 


So, I wrote the classy, baby shower game myself. I am not an expert, but I hope this can save anyone in the same boat as my husband once was. 

As a gift to my subscribers, you can have a free copy of my baby shower mad lib which has been modified to be generic enough to use at your next shower. Free offer ends December 1st, 2014.
Yo, be a subscriber so you don't miss any of my random posts.

  1. Once you subscribe, you will get an email, asking you to confirm. 
  2. Then confirm. (Yes, I should write "How to" directions for IKEA)
  3. Then send a quick email to jadeintheparke@gmail.com with "Baby Shower with Bible Verse" or "Baby Shower w/o Bible" in the SUBJECT LINE.  (Just copy and paste)
  4. You will receive an email back within 3-7 days with the pdf. If you need it quickly, please note that in the subject line.

PS. Please feel free to "Pin" to Pinterest any of the images with the credit to this blog (Just hover your mouse over the image and a "PinIt" button will appear or if you like any of the content, feel free to share on Twitter, too! No pressure.

Monday, December 23, 2013

10 Tips for Christmas for Stressed Moms

This post is dedicated to all Moms who want to make a change and NOT do the crazies at Christmas, especially Moms of special needs children.I got your back.

Please read my Christmas post & come right back, ya' hear? As a special treat, you will see a picture of me when I was 11 years old. I know. 
I know, this may go viral.
That post I hope encouraged you to do your portion for this season with no mommy guilt, please. 
Christmas is a day that men have set aside to focus on our God, who stepped down in the humble form of a baby, to live our life without blemish or sin and then pay for our sins by dying on the cross, and the most importantly, rising from the dead so that we may have eternal life.

God's truth sounds fantastical, yet it is the source for why we even want to celebrate.
I humbly offer my tips that have served our family well these last two decades. Hardly any of the tips were done year in and year out, but they were sanity saving or soul food to my family and I hope they will bless you.  There is an UPDATE at the very end of the post.


  1. Nothing gets me and my kids cleaning like guests coming! Plan a low stress event at your home early on in December or Thanksgiving weekend to spur a burst of decorating.   Then, boom you're done for the season.
  2. Get the swirls of stuff out of your head. If you go all out and do the outside lights, garlands, wreaths, Christmas cards, work parties, baking day, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, church programs, service projects, secret santas, school class parties, and teachers gifts just to name a few, realize it is a lot and if you aren't supremely organized (and even if you are) it can be too much on a Mom. But go on, grab a small notebook and dedicate it to getting organized and give yourself grace, because I am exhausted just reading that list.
  3. Just simplify and let go. Maybe not every year. Communicate well and early with your family to bring them alongside your epiphany as most disappointment happens with unmet expectations.
  4. Prioritize the activities that really bless your family and are in line with your family’s values. And say no to the extra fluff.
  5. Take advantage of the downtime between Christmas and New Year’s: Be unabashedly unashamed, and do a "New Year's Letter".
  6. Give 3 gifts on the Day of Epiphany which is the 12th day after Christmas when the wise men visit the baby king bearing presents. In the US, that is recognized on January 6th which buys you some time, especially handy if illness derails your December. 
    • You can move those three wise men statues around the house as they wind their way to the manger scene starting on Christmas day. It was exciting for our kids to find those 3 kings each morning. Yes, this was before the Elf on a shelf phenomenon. Fun stuff. Many years I bagged it if it was a burden and didn't bless us.
  7. Drive and see the light displays when everything shuts down between Christmas and New Year's. Do a little research on social media which means ask your friends on Facebook for the best neighborhoods to drive through.
  8. Feed your family’s soul, do your Advent Bible readings around food or in place of bedtime stories. It will keep you consistent. When you miss days (I said when not if), give Him the glory when you do it again and be grateful. Stop making this about your failure or success as a Mom. Grace. Grace, God's grace, my fellow moms.
  9. Every year or every other buy your family a new Christmas book, and take a pen and write the year and a special note for your kids on the inside flap. To hear my younger ones read aloud the notes to their older siblings before they were even born is delightful. Fan them out over your tree skirt to be picked up and read or place a stack where you read stories to the kids. Make it easy to be consistent.
  10. Spiritual traditions such as Advent readings are like vitamins to counteract the deficit during the crazies in December. Their benefit can't be measured in an infographic. It is like "comfort food" for the soul.  No special Advent book needed at first. 
    1. Just start reading small portions of Luke right now. (Can't you hear Linus in your head?)
    2. Sing a Christmas carol (Here is link: Go to #145-168), 
    3. Light a candle or flip a battery operated one on. (Optional)
    4. Pray.

Merry Christmas! 

Please share in the comments what you do to reclaim Christmas from the crazies? Let's bless each other!

UPDATE: The day I am posting this, my youngest woke up with a fever and vomiting. The rubber met the road: Can I not freak out and still rest on Him with 24 hours to go until Christmas Eve? Do I believe the words that I just wrote yesterday? I am happy to say that I failed that test. I was defensive, demanding and plain unkind to my teen. I believe what I wrote, but my hope is not in following tips for a stress free Christmas. It is in Him who brings perfect peace. No, I am not happy when I see my sin, but thankful that I am not stuck in it still navel gazing. Just by sharing my failures here I am free to admit that I don't have it altogether and I need Him every hour. I praise Him for showing me my sinful heart response to my family. Time to go ask forgiveness from my teen and preach the gospel to my wayward heart. Peace to you!