Taliesin decided to work on his plans for oxygenating Mars' mostly-CO2 atmosphere by delivering plants and water to Mars to do the work for us. Anybody who knows Tal knows that he is constantly coming up with these ideas, and drawing vastly elaborate pictures of how his machines and plans will work... but he rarely documents enough that others can interpret his plans. This time he began with a space-ship drawing, and I made it very clear that the people looking at his project would need to understand what it was all about, and that he should think it through with a mind toward sharing his ideas, instead of just keeping them for himself. "Of course!" He said, as if that was always the plan... And he set to work researching in his various books, getting us to Google things with him (we don't let him Google without us, yet), and making serious plans. Most of his interest was in the molecular and atomic makeup of CO2, as well as in photosynthesis and carbon cycles, so that's where he went with it. He also ended up being interested in the complications of having to deal with hypobaric and extremely cold conditions for his project. The spaceship plans remained a bit vague. At one point (when he'd tentatively decided that the plants had to be in greenhouses to keep the air pressure up) I asked him how he was going to deal with the air-pressure issue, and he said "well either with a pressurized greenhouse or with changing their genes so it doesn't matter". I was a bit stunned, even though I knew he'd been reading about the possibility of genetic alteration. "You mean you'd genetically modify them? That's interesting!" To which he widened his eyes and declared "Mama! I don't know how to do that, yet! I'm only eight! I don't have to do everything!" Right. I must have forgotten.
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When I asked Rhiannon, who is six, if she'd thought of a science fair idea, she told me that she was already prepared ("Just come look!"). She had carefully lined up all her babies from biggest to smallest on the floor. "I'm doing childhood development! I'm going to show them all how my babies grow up from newborn to six, since I'm six so that's all I know about!" She then produced a drawing of sperm racing for an egg, making various competitive comments to each other. We eventually convinced her that a science project was a nice opportunity to see what other people think, too, so we found various sources of information on fertilization, growth, and development, and she ended up making a book all about it, with drawings for every age she decided to write about, some development milestones either copied from her sources or creatively-spelled, herself, and photos of herself at the same ages, which we painstakingly helped her pull out of the heap of photo-CD's. I was quite impressed with how she pulled it all together! She then enlisted my advice to bind it into a ribbon-book. She also found a baby scrapbook at the recycling depot and filled it in for her 'eldest' baby, Ganga. And because she found herself ready with a few days to spare, she then whipped off another book about "the love of a brother and sister", in a couple of hours, without any help or input from us. Let it never be said that my daughter is not productive!
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For both children this was an amazing experience. Tal was able to really stick with something and develop it in depth, and he actually worked extremely hard at expressing and explaining his activities and ideas, and creating a finished product (his display board) which is very unusual for him. Then he invited his dearest friends to come to his Science Fair and see what he'd done, and he was so wound up with joy and pride that he was nearly vibrating as he carried his enormous project up into the building. Rhiannon's big accomplishment (in my opinion) was her willingness to take some advice and actually look up some information about development. After she had declared that she already knew everything there was to know about it, I was quite pleased to see her accept a little outside input. She has always been very interested in babies and medicine, so it's nice to see her expand in that area, a bit.
And then there was the rest of the science fair! Projects ranged from in-depth bird-studies to physics, chemistry (and smoke-bombs!), music with wine-glasses, human anatomy, electricity, and even a septic field. We were all very impressed and happy with the variety and enthusiasm exhibited, there, but above all it was wonderful to see our children share their hearts' passions and find themselves in a supportive community of other inspired kids.