The disorganized parents’ guide to a successful Science Fair project

Any resemblance with real people and/or situations is because I based this on myself and other 4,564,223,545 similar parents I know.

Step 1- Exactly 29 hours before said Science Fair enter in absolute panic because OMIGOSH WE FORGOT THE SCIENCE FAIR.

Step 2- Mop around and nag your spouse about what a terrible parent you are. Act all insulted when he doesn’t try to prove you wrong.

Step 3- Go about with your day because oh well, it’s too late to do anything about it now.

Step 4- Listen to your heart break into a million pieces when the child realizes she won’t be attending the Science fair, and she tries her best not to cry.

Step 5- Kick your ass in gear and resolve to do something. After all, this is life, full of spontaneity and impromptu developments! With its share of forgetful and somewhat irresponsible parents. Improvise, darnit!

And here, from me to you… scientific salvation: http://scitoys.com/ Bow.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across this link, but ever since I did I added it to the information in my ‘Resources’ tab up there by my header. I knew it would help me some day; the day has come.

The experiment we chose is DNA Extraction, a surprisingly simple process but of high-caliber learning possibilities. The best part was that after a quick trip to the store to get some alcohol our material list was complete! No-fuss big-name materials here. Educational bliss.

Their explanation is very easy to follow (and they get extra points for the adorable ‘helper’ in their pics); this is our version.

Time-line of the dysfunctional family’s Science fair project:

8 pm– After dad has arrived from work (because he had to go into the office today, of all days), and dinner is served, finally trek out to buy rubbing alcohol.

8:20 pm– Arrive back home and put the alcohol in the freezer. Begin the visual presentation, probably the most extensive part of the project.

Draw, color, cut, print and paste.

I had the lingering feeling that last year I interfered too much in how the presentation turned out, so this year I backed off and let Anna do her thing.

The most I helped with was spelling out words when she asked me to, and with some of the gluing. We couldn’t find the solid glue anywhere (of course) and had to rely on the white, liquid stuff, which can dampen and tear paper easily.

As the presentation was being worked on we reviewed facts about DNA. Here are some sites from which I read aloud to Anna while she worked:
100 Facts about DNA
Science News for Kids
All About Forensic Science

These will all have a permanent home in my Resources tab for sure!

10:00 pm– Time to start the actual experiment.

Here are the steps as we followed them-

You will need:
Carrots or any other vegetable
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of dish-washing soap
1 Tbs of salt
blender
one coffee filter
a funnel or mesh filter

Chop the carrots (or any other thing you’re planning on using)

 

Put them in the blender with the 1/2 cup of water and 1 Tbs of salt.

 

Blend just enough for the biggest chunks to break down. Don’t overdo it.

Once blended, add the 1/4 cup of dish-washing detergent.

 

You can swirl the mixture or let it be. We didn’t move it around much and it worked just fine. We learned that the combination of salt and soap breaks the cell walls open (which are, in part, made of fat) thus releasing the DNA into the water you blended with the mixture.

Next, place the coffee filter on your funnel or mesh filter, and filter your mixture into a clear glass container.

 

Once this is done you can discard the coffee filter and what’s in it.

Tilt your glass container to a side, and veeeeery slowly pour in some (cold!) alcohol. It has to be done slowly because you don’t want the carrot juice and the alcohol to combine; we need the alcohol to sit on a layer on top of the juice.  The amount of alcohol to pour will be equal or more to the amount of juice you have. We did more.

At this point (according to the experiment explanation) after a few seconds you should be able to see a film of DNA forming.

We saw nothing.

And I panicked.

10:17 pm Call it a night, hopeful that in the morning things will work out.

 

And what do you know? All our experiment needed was precisely that, time to set. As in, our experiment was wanting for us to back off, respect its individuality and give it space, goshdarnit! (Who knew experiments could be so adolescent)

So, after a night of beauty sleep here it is in all its splendor. I present to you… carrot DNA:

ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?!

Ok so what if Stephen suggested it looks like something someone spat out. I still think it’s awesome.

Oh, if only we had a powerful and educational whilst super fun microscope to view it under, our complete edification on the subject would be fulfilled!  *cough* Stephen *cough*

And now you see how the actual experiment took 17 minutes to complete, plus one hour and forty minutes for creating the visual presentation, you can have an entire Science fair-worthy project finished in one hour and 57 minutes!

The cost for us was of about 4 dls for the bottle of alcohol, all the other things we had at home. Time-effective and cost-effective, yeah!

Now you get to exhale, relax and promise yourself that never again are you going to wait until the last minute to do these things! Yeah, right.

 

Exploring possibilities

DNA is quite fascinating. These are some other things we discussed while working on the project:

How the origins of humans can be traced back thanks to genetics (I highly recommend watching ‘The amazing human journey’. This is what first introduced Anna into the uses of DNA)

The use of DNA in forensic science and crime-solving.

Will DNA someday help bring back extinct species?

The ‘psychological’ effect of genetics: Are genes the excuse we give for the unhealthy behaviors we have refused to change?

 

 

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About Caro

Writing about my life according to me. Quite convenient because you can't prove me wrong.
This entry was posted in Events, Projects and crafts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The disorganized parents’ guide to a successful Science Fair project

  1. Amy says:

    It was a totally awesome experiment!!!

  2. Carol says:

    I agree with Amy, was a very cool project!!! Was a fun day for us, enjoyed seeing all the cool projects!

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