The perf. project that never ends.

Way back at the beginning of December, my darling little fourth-grader brought home a notice that there would be mandatory participation in the Invention Convention for her grade level this year. She had just under two weeks (and two weekends) to come up with an invention, fill out a packet of information about her project, design it, and create a prototype.

I left the packet in her folder so that her dad could read it because the one weekend she had to work on it was during his weekend. We talked about what she might want to design. She thought about a cap that said DIABETES and had ID information in case the person got really sick. She thought of a hat that could keep you cold, and a few more ideas, but finally settled on a purse or bag that had a massager built-in so your shoulder didn’t hurt when the bag was too heavy. Of course. Because this is my daughter who hates to go shopping.

Monday night…or Tuesday night? Whatever night when she came home after being iced in for days, I asked her how the project went and she said she hadn’t worked on it. I had a long, grown-up talk with Gracie about expectations and how she is old enough, and certainly mature enough to manage her own work schedule. We talked about planning out a schedule for each project about what she would need to do and when she would actually do each step of the work, but I didn’t think the talk stuck. She “yes, Ma’am”ed and “I know”ed in all the right places, but she’s ten. So we feverishly planned and went about our week and spent all day on Saturday trying to pull the entire project together. We researched online, went shopping all over the city for parts, came home to assemble her prototype purse, and then I talked to her about the research packet – to find out that she had been working on it on her own all week. She had listened to my talk after all! There was only one minor blah! when I looked at what she had done – every time she had written out the title of her project, she had written out “The Perf. Purse”. I explained to her that she couldn’t shorten the title on her report and she patiently (ha!) explained, “No, Mom. You don’t get it. That’s the name. The Perf. Purse. Like on the TV commercials? <insert annoying TV announcer voice> The PERF. PURSE!” Ooof. Of course.

That should have been enough, right? A nice little story. Except we found on the day before Christmas break that my little procrastinator won first place for all of fourth grade. Which was very exciting, believe me! I am all for reinforcing Gracie’s independent work habits. Only I also found out that the students who had won ribbons were now expected to compete in Districts. Which meant Gracie had to create a GINORMOUS poster board over Christmas break.

Gracie’s dad (who was extremely apologetic about missing the notice in the first place) made Gracie rewrite her report over and over until her handwriting was somewhat presentable. This past weekend, I taught Gracie about building storyboards to plan out her layout and then helped her create her vision. (There was some clipart involved because we learned that neither of us have a future as an illustrator.)

Proj1 Proj2 Proj3

They’re not the greatest pictures because did I think to take a picture of the GINORMOUS poster board when it was all assembled and the titles colored in? Of course not. Maybe I can get a better pic on Saturday during Open House.

Yeah, so, apparently the way Districts work is that the school coordinators take the projects to a nearby elementary school and set them up for display. The judges walk around and look at the boards, rate them somehow, and select the winners. Students never have to give a presentation or answer any questions. When we were little, during Science Fairs, we would have a three-hour block on Saturday morning when we were expected to stand by our project and wait for the judges to come by and quiz us down. Here, there’s an Open House on Saturday afternoon and the students walk in to see if there’s a ribbon on their board. The winners are then invited to a ceremony at the Botanic Gardens (in January!) on Monday. Nice, but…different.

So there you go. We are still project building here at Casa de Katie a month later. At least my little nerdling is having a good time. Even when I made her rewrite entire sections of her poster board text, she didn’t complain. She was a little upset when I didn’t let her print out her title on the computer, but we avoided complete meltdowns. And I’ll call that a straight-up win any day of the week.

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