School Projects

The teacher assigns a project to my child who then explains it to me. The communication chain seems simple, particularly when it is also facilitated by a note directly from the teacher to parents. I am very grateful for those notes, because projects tend to transform inside my children’s heads. Patch is supposed to research and present on traditional clothing for one of the Utah Native American tribes. The teacher pictures him using class time to make clothing out of butcher paper. Patch pictures me making two buckskin dresses, three pairs of leggings, several loincloths, six pairs of moccasins, a vest, and a top hat. Beaded. When I express reluctance to do all of this sewing, Patch’s eyes get wide with panic because his assignment will be wrong. Talking with the teacher clears everything up and Patch begins to happily plan and cut butcher paper clothes.

Gleek tells me intensely that she has to pick a science fair project that will make the world a better place. It has to be meaningful and helpful. I know that the point is to learn and practice scientific method, so we settle on and experiment to test the effect of fertilizer on algal growth in pond water. It is an experiment that has been done a bazillion times before, which is fine. We don’t need to change the whole world with one project. We just need to change one child by helping her learn. That in turn will help change the world eventually.

I both love and hate school projects, but most of the reasons I dislike them are due to translation errors as the instructions pass through the brains of my kids.