After Anna was invited to a Spa birthday party a few weeks ago, she came back more interested than ever in spa products and how they work. This curiosity came in extremely handy because we had a science fair project to work on, and voilá, we now had a theme. Proof once again that learning happens in everyday life!
We chose to focus on the effects of Epsom bath salts, and more than an experiment our project was a research. I say “our” project because, yes, I was completely involved in the development of it. Some people may argue that a child must do things by herself, but I say hey, if parents are having a good time working on the assignment with their kids, spending time together and developing stimulating conversation, is that such a bad thing? Of course not.
We reviewed the Scientific Method and Anna’s question was, Do Epsom salts really help improve our health?
During the course of our investigation we learned tons of interesting stuff. Did you know that we need magnesium to regulate over 300 processes in our body, like heart rate? Yep, it’s that important. Also, we can’t produce our own magnesium, so we need to get it from external sources. That’s where the Epsom salts (Magnesium Sulfate) come into play.
We found that for the longest time doctors couldn’t prove that magnesium could be absorbed through the skin. That was until Dr. Rosemary Waring conducted an experiment in 2006, in which she measured levels of magnesium in volunteers’ blood and urine before and after a 20 minute bath with Epsom salts. The results showed that the levels of magnesium increased after the bath, proving that the mineral can pass the barrier of our skin into our bodies. A fun and relaxing bath that’s also healthy? I’m in!
The toughest part of the project was the visual presentation, because so much writing was involved. We took it slow and I helped Anna with writing out the main titles, but she did the rest herself almost without complaining. Almost.
The day of the science fair was finally here. We set up our presentation and reviewed the information.
Then I looked at Anna and casually said “Ok, you’re in charge of our stand while I walk around and look at the other kids’ projects”. She froze and gave me a terrified look. She argued and complained that I couldn’t leave her alone. What was she going to do?! What if someone — gawd forbid– asked her something?! “You’ll be fine”, I assured her. And people, I walked away.
I listened to the kids talking about earthquakes and tsunamis, about the water cycle and gerbils, and magnets and sunflowers. For a long time I resisted the impulse to look back, afraid that Anna would catch me glimpsing at her and beg for me to come help her. I did what any parent would do: I hid behind a large cardboard presentation and sneaked a peek. This is what I saw:
One of the parents had stopped and Anna was giving her the whole explanation behind her research. I felt so proud! I could see my girl pointing at her visual, nodding her head, smiling, answering questions like a pro. I knew right there that even if our science project wasn’t the most impressive one at the fair, this moment made it all worth while. A once terrified Anna was looking confident, no longer doubting herself and her knowledge.
Like that parent, many others stopped by and I watched as Anna offered her information over again. When I finally came back and told her how proud I was of her, she had a huge smile on her face and said “Hey mom, it wasn’t as hard as I thought!”. Glee.
Then, she ran off like the Tasmanian Devil to see what her friends were up to. Here is one of her buddies, demonstrating how the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar releases enough carbon dioxide to inflate a balloon:
That was probably the most popular experiment because it had a direct visual result, which thrilled the kids. Plus, they got to play with the balloons. Bonus.
When the fair was over all the kids ran outside to play. The community center where the fair took place is located in a woodsy, beautiful area. Moms cleaned up while kids played, and when it was time to go get them, we were pleasantly surprised.
Turns out that the kids created two groups: One in charge of collecting sticks, and the other in charge of building a house/fort/clubhouse of sorts. Ah, the beauty of kids being kids. It was wonderful.
It was a great experience in which much was learned, and not only in the scientific area.
Looking forward to it again next year!