February 06, 2006

My Science Fair Project

I spent most of this weekend working on my elementary school science fair project – fifth grade, to be precise. It was a field study of the feral parakeets who nest in the tops of the light towers on the university athletic fields in our neighborhood. They may be descended from released pet parakeets or from South American parakeets who migrated north or from a group of crated birds who escaped from JFK Airport in 1967. I first saw them a couple of years ago and told my son I thought it would be a great science fair project, but he wasn’t convinced. This year he finally agreed with me, and about a month before the project deadline he agreed to accompany me to the fields as I performed my observations.

I discovered a good half-dozen nests on those towers –- big, long, rectangular nests made of twigs, with several pairs of birds in each nest – and I called attention to significant activity as my helpful son jotted down notes. After a number of repeat visits, I worked mainly at home, suggesting content for an introductory essay as well as finding information sources about the birds. I edited, typed, and proofread the notes and the essay. I also typed up a list of references in which I was listed as a helper. Then came time to lay out the report on display board, a task my wife took over with our son’s sometimes eager, sometimes anguished participation. My wife was otherwise occupied through most of the project, though, because she had a science fair project of her own to work on – for third grade.

This was some weekend of hard schoolwork! I learned a lot about how to stick to a task even though I wanted to go outside and play. Tomorrow we’ll hand in the parakeet project, and next weekend it will be judged.

I hope I win first place!