Emigration Diary: The School Science Fair And The Snowy Parade
After the Valentine’s Day disaster I discovered that in order to avoid any more grade school cultural blunders I should simply take my cues from remembered episodes of The Simpsons. This is what I did last week when confronted with phenomena of The Science Fair.
I was unable to attend the Parent’s Information Evening due to work commitments and so had to make do with a downloaded PDF informing me of nothing more than the required dimensions of the display, the judging criteria, a reminder that it should be the students’ own work and that scientific method must be followed. My second grader was enthusiastic. He had obviously discussed the upcoming fair with the science teacher. That’s what I get for signing him up to Science Club. Despite how cool it sounded, I dissuaded him from the ambitious wind powered contraption he was originally planning. After all, where was he supposed to get indoor wind without a socket for a fan? He settled on a series of experiments on bridges he was to build out of K-Nex. This sounded more reasonable. I bought him a notebook and he set to work. He got his little brother to weigh toy cars to test his structures. It was odd listening to scientific measurements in ounces and inches. The metric system really does make much more sense.
It was interesting watching him work. He started with one structure which collapsed under just a few cars and then added different parts to it until he came up with a structure that would hold all of his cars. Of course two nights before the fair I was presented with pages of scribbled notes and asked to help him write it up properly in his notebook. He was still writing at 10.30pm the night before it was due. He had photos for his display and he planned to bring the final successful bridge as a model. It was only thanks to Twitter that I discovered that the poster board I had supplied wasn’t going to cut it. The display had to stand up by itself. Thankfully, the local stationary store is more familiar with science fairs than I am and stocks reasonably priced cardboard displays for exactly that purpose.
It became apparent at the parents viewing that we had got it right. His project stood up both physically and metaphorically quite well among the others. There was even a fourth grade project quite similar to his. The standard of the projects was excellent. There were plant tropisms, hamster mazes, mentos explosions, dogs’ paw preferences and a myriad of vegetables acting as batteries. Admittedly, I was disappointed not to see a single baking soda volcano. My son won the first prize for second grade. He was thrilled with himself. He even allowed pictures to be taken. We are very proud. He’s to take his entry to the County fair next. Perhaps next year I should let him try whatever wind powered contraption he comes up with.
We headed into New York City to see the parade on St Patrick’s Day. Or actually St Patrick’s Eve, as this was, bizarrely, when the parade was on. The train journey was an eye opener. Dublin absolutely does not have the monopoly on half-dressed sparkly shamrock adorned drunk teenagers. Green knee socks and short shorts with cleavage crushing leprechaun waistcoats was the uniform of choice for the majority. I dread to think of their fate later that day because by the time we arrived in Penn Station it was snowing.
We made our way up by Central Park following the sound of drumming and the trail of green debris and found a decent viewing spot. We saw police bands, firefighter bands, prison warden bands, college bands, Irish Society bands and yet more police bands. It’s remarkable how many members of the emergency services in New York are Irish. We stood for about an hour as the snow fluttered around us. The atmosphere was pleasant, we waved and clapped as the bands passed by. It was pretty cold though. We were wrapped up, but I hadn’t really prepared for snow. My kids were getting bored and starting to shiver and whine too. I suggested we just wait to see a few floats and then go in search of food.
But there were to be no floats or puppets, just marching band after marching band, kilts and flags adding the only colour. I was shocked and a little disappointed. The bands are, of course, impressive, but the biggest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world doesn’t have any floats, puppets or giant heads? As the blizzard worsened and the goosebumps became visible on the drummer girls’ legs we retired in the most Irish American of ways to TGI Fridays where the choice of beer was between green Budweiser and Guinness with a shamrock in the head. No ‘traditional’ Patty’s Day corned beef and cabbage for us; we ordered steak.