Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Week of Failure

Well, damn. I have spent this week trying to find fun, creative ways to teach my kids about science and stuff.

It's not going very well.

Evidently, science is not my for-tay! I have set up complicated experiment after complicated experiment only to have nothing happen. I'm starting to think that I should stick to things that have a known outcome.

Our first failure wasn't an experiment, but it was an experience. We traipsed deep into the woods to find a letterbox.

Because everyone I tell about letterboxing seems confused: You follow clues to find a box someone has hidden in nature. You find the box and put your stamped mark in the book that is in the box. Then you take the stamp in the box and stamp the book you have brought with you. It's basically a fun little treasure hunt.

Except when you drag your three little kids on their very first letterboxing expedition down a tiny dirt trail, through mud, and over a creek to find this log:

This log that doesn't have a letterbox under it, as it is supposed to.

Failure one. (We did find a letterbox the next day on what was the best walk ever, except Jack wasn't with us. More on that on Saturday.)

Okay, well, that didn't work out too well, so we'll do an experiment instead. We're doing geology this week, so let's make us some homemade stalagmites and stalactites. Great! I dragged Sam and Quinn up and down the health and hygiene aisle at the grocery store to find Epsom salts, whatever the fuck they are, bought jars, found string, and took numerous photos to publish when our awesome stalagmites and stalactites formed.

Look! Aren't they cool?

Oh, what? You can't see them? That's because you CAN'T MAKE STALAGMITES AND STALACTITES AT HOME. I don't actually believe they exist in caves either. And icicles are total bullshit as well.

Screw science.

We'll do art instead. I know! Sand art would be fun. And why buy colored sand to layer in jars when you can just take some of the sand you paid $5 per 50 pounds for and throw some food coloring in it?

I'll tell you why. It doesn't fucking work. I should have known that it wasn't going to work when I told WhyMommy that I was going to do it and she looked skeptical and told me that sand was basically tiny rocks and rocks wouldn't take food coloring. Guess what? She's a rocket scientist. When she has something to say about science, I should believe her. Lesson learned.

See, first of all, food coloring only seems to come in gel form these days and so my little drops of gel turned into sand-covered clumps. So then I dyed water and soaked sand in it to see if that would work.

Guess what? It didn't. It may look like that little glob of sand on the left of the plate is red, but that is just the red water sloughing off of it. And the sand didn't pick up any green (on the right).

Really, this week of Camp Stimey, while not bad, has not been our most successful thus far. I'm counting on you local ladies to make tomorrow's nature center meet-up a good one for me! (And, you know, for you too. I guess.) It's not too late to email me if you want to come. I think we're going to have a good group!!

Unless, that is, I fail at that too by giving you all the wrong address or something.


  1. the only part you failed to do was put the proper scientist's spin on it. you succeeded in addressing the question "can food coloring be used to die sand?". disproving a hypothesis is about the most concrete outcome one can hope for. i suggest you declare the week a success. however, your spin made me laugh.

  2. You went on a nature hike, played with string and water, and then made sand blobs? How much better can the week get?

  3. You forget that in science, nothing succeeds or works right or turns out as expected for many, many trials or years, even. You're giving the boys the right perspective on science, still.

  4. Wish we could meet up with you guys at the nature center. E keeps asking when we will see you guys. Unfortunatly, I gotta work today! Have fun! (And I think a week in which you were creative and spent wonderful time with your kids is never a failure)

  5. You'll get the stalactities and stalagmites at Luray Caverns.

  6. Even the best scientists fail more often then they succeed.

    (okay, I don't really know that the above is true, but it sounds like it should be.)

  7. we did the "layering sand" craft by rubbing sidewalk chalk into a bowl of salt (also a good way to burn up a little excess energy). the salt grates the chalk making pretty colors. pour it into your jar and start with another color. we also tried this with sand but the color was very dull and required a lot of grinding.

  8. How many times did the Wright Brothers crash before they finally flew for only 18 seconds? (I don't know, but I bet it was a lot!)

    Or, next year, you could have a visiting scientist counselor. If you have a rocket scientist handy or something.

  9. I bet if you ask your sons if they had fun and learned anything this week they would say the week was a success. That's all that matters, really. Did they have fun? Did you? And did no one get hurt or lost?

  10. Sorry your first letterboxing trip wasn't positive - sadly thats happened to us. Glad to hear the second one worked out.

    For making stalagmites/stalagtites - google rock cany making. It's basicallt the same only you use sugar water. Works MUCH better!

  11. Yup. Colored chalk for your sand art. It is the only art project I remember my mom doing with me :)

  12. When I was a kid, we had a great book called Science Experiments You Can Eat. Methinks you need it.

  13. Oh, and how 'bout that thing where you drop Mentos into Pepsi?

  14. I would have a chuckle at your expense but I'm too busy feeling bitter that I can't come and meet you in person. I think you need to have a Minnesota week of Camp Stimey. We've got mosquitoes. That's sciency!

  15. i'm just glad you are trying. my kids need so much academic help this summer, but i'm doing NONE of it. after a failed attempt at a "writer's workshop" when they were in 4 and 6, I'm scarred for life.

    We go geocaching almost every weekend. Lots of ticks, but lots of fun.

  16. Stepped on a bee when I was a kid, got a nice red lump and the redness started going up the side of my foot toward my ankle. My Mom made me soak my foot in a bucket of warm water with Epsom salts, drew the infection out. Boy are you YOUNG! (some dis, huh?)

  17. I wonder if they color the sand by mixing it with mushed-up colored chalk?


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