Kids Science Projects: or How far will a Trebuchet go?

There are two types of people: those who are absolutely terrified when they hear the phrase “Kids Science Projects” and those who immediately think “Cool!” Let me assure you: I’m firmly lodged in the first category. My husband, an electrical engineer, is in the second category. How do such people end up in marital bliss? God has a sense of humor, and He knew how much we needed each other.

Early in our three kids’ education, we quickly gravitated to a system of sorts. Language arts was all mine, and math and science were all his. (I would like to point out that would include the kids’ science projects, of course.) We overlapped on social studies, and when a foreign language was added to the mix in middle school, I was voted most likely to tutor. Sacre Bleu!

When the third grade science fair rolled around for our oldest son, I made sure my husband got lots of advance notice. Fortunately, he was as intrigued as I was intimidated.

My husband suggested a trebuchet. Although I liked the French sounding word, I was at a loss as to its meaning. According to my American Heritage Dictionary, it’s “A medieval catapult for throwing heavy stones.” The sketch in our dictionary showed a medieval catapult that appeared to be a couple stories high outside a forbidding looking castle. Dwarf-like men were pulling the main levers controlling the spring action. Although such a mammoth creation would certainly have been the talk of our small town, the men in our family made plans for a table top trebuchet that would be practical for throwing small objects without breaking our neighbors’ windows. My husband and son were excited about the prospect of hurling things in our back yard with such a device. If they used a series of objects, they could measure how far the trebuchet could throw said objects and draw their own scientific conclusions.

This project allowed for more father and son bonding time, more trips to Home Depot and more purchased sandpaper than the Boy Scouts’ Annual Pinewood Derby matchbox car competition. Science nerds rock, dude!!

Two years later, our family moved overseas, and it only seemed appropriate that the state-of-the-art, homemade trebuchet should go with us. My husband was a bit disappointed to discover that our local American curriculum-based school didn’t sponsor a science fair for kids. Science projects quickly became a mist in his pleasant memory file. For another 4 years, the trebuchet gathered dust in our garage until one day our ninth grade son had an inspirational moment for his world history project. He dusted off the neglected trebuchet and researched weapons typically used in the Middle Ages. On his appointed day to present, he dressed up as a warrior of that time period and gave a very impressive talk on weaponry of the Middle Ages. His teacher was certainly impressed: he gave our son an A.

You never know where a kid’s science project may take you and your family. It might not be good for two grades in two different countries within six years, but it’s an experience your kid will never forget.

By the way, if you’re in the ‘terrified of projects’ group like I am, grab a copy of 24 Hour Science Projects. The 24 Hour guides have step by step instructions for all sorts of science projects for your kids. It’s almost as good as having an engineer husband with a passion for trebuchets!

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