Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Cayley and I began working on her fourth annual science project yesterday and, regardless of outcome, this one is destined to occupy a warm place in my heart. 

For her first project, we traveled around Harris and Galveston Counties. 

For her second project, we went to Stafford and Beaumont once apiece, and High Island three times!!

For her third project, we had to make an overnight trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

But for her fourth, we have finally come home.  Literally!

The developer of our neighborhood is actually a friend of mine; our association pre-dates our build contract.  With his permission, Cayley was able to take unofficial temporary custody of the land next door to us for this project.  THIS is her laboratory!! 
We started measuring and staking yesterday and began work on the experimental design.  Once we get going, the appearance of this land will begin to look very different from the above pic. 

Is there a name for the phenomenon by which the experiences of youth are often not fully comprehended and valued until well into adulthood?  There were so many events about which I said, "Yeah, whatever" as a child, because I was too cool to get excited about a lot of what went on in the adult world, and because I was too preoccupied with the daily logistical challenge of growing up to bother contemplating "deeper meanings".  It wasn't until many years later that I realized the extent to which those events shaped my identity. 

I see the same phenomenon manifesting now in Cayley.  We view science projects very differently.  For her, it's just one more in a vast set of performance requirements she must juggle; it is unfortunate that GT school has reduced learning to a soul-less assembly line but, by virtue of the sheer volume of assignments heaped upon the kids, this has absolutely occurred.  For me, Science Fair is a satisfying recapitulation of childhood and a vicarious chance at opportunities that were not available to me, and that I would have died for!  Whereas Cayley had won three District Science Fair gold medals by the conclusion of grade 6, I didn't even have access to science education at that point in my life.  By grade 6, in our wretchedly-poor school district, we had only one hour of science per week (and it consisted of a superficial instruction relegated to Friday afternoons when none of the other kids were interested in paying attention).  Every week, I used to wait patiently for that one precious hour to roll around, but if there were special events or the slightest other extenuating circumstances, it was always cancelled, and I would be so crushed!  Science was not considered to be part of our core curriculum, but it was the only part of school I enjoyed.

Sometimes Cayley tells me that she wants to back off the science effort and perhaps devote her energies to something else.  I tell her that she can absolutely do that if another priority is identified; we have both certainly gotten our fill of winning Science Fair medals by now!  But then she'll change her mind and reiterate that she wants to be a veterinarian.  If that's her priority, she has to do the science thing.

Being a vet would involve a heck of a lot more than simply lovin' animals up.  Sickness, surgery, death - it's the whole nine yards. 
Anyway, these questions, like many others, will naturally work themselves out in time.  Meanwhile, we've found yet another original means of celebrating our new home.  And I do think that Cayley will one day look back on these projects and see them for the first time as having the specialness that I can perceive right now. 

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