"I love this, mom." My first-grader put his small hands around his dusty science fair trophy from last year, lifting it past books and clothes piled on the dresser. He held it up to his chest and looked in the mirror.
Proud but sad, I smiled at him. "You won first place in the last science fair."
This year our school had no science fair. Instead of cardboard presentations that would fill the cafeteria, the children made power-point presentations at school. The first-graders did their experiment in class. I had nothing to do with it. At first I felt relieved - science projects took many hours of my time. One year I had three children in elementary school, and I thought science project season was going to kill me. Let them do it all at school and let me get on with my busy life.
But what is it worth to walk a child through answering a question about the world by using the scientific method? What is it worth to have a child win first place in the science fair? I remember how a writing contest in elementary school changed the course of my life. Maybe my son will want to be a scientist, or at least he'll have a friendly feeling towards the scientific world, because he remembers how good it felt to win that trophy.
I want my science fair back.