I loved doing projects in grade school. The ones that involved some kind of diorama were my favorites and my least favorites were anything involving public speaking like in eighth grade when I delivered my presentation on President Eisenhower in my friend’s dad’s army dress jacket and hat.
In my school, Our Lady of Perpetual Hellish Misery*, we starting doing science fair projects in the fourth grade. My first project was with Jennifer and we did something about blood and platelets because her mom was a nurse and could get us the real thing for the project. I don’t really remember what our deal was…but we made play-doh cells and platelets and put them in real petrie dishes and had vials of blood carefully mounted on our presentation board. In the fifth grade, Susan and I did lungs and lung cancer and our project featured used air filters from a local bar procured from my father, an air filter salesman. High ‘ick’ factor there. By eighth grade I was flying solo and pulling tablecloths off fully set tables as an example of inertia.
I was also a big fan of food in my projects. Didn’t always go over so well. Mrs. Howard** was my junior high science and history teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Hellish Misery. She assigned a project on planets and somehow I got stuck with Pluto (which is now a plutoid and that sounds like something one might expel from one’s lungs when one has a very bad sinus infection). I thought it would be so cool to build a Pluto out of blue ice creams with maybe some of those edible silver ball thingies.*** Pluto, in case you didn’t know, is made of three layers – silicate and water ice, water ice, and frozen nitrogen. How cool, I thought, because I could make this tri-layer ice cream bombe and then after my presentation we could have a snack.
I pitched my idea to Mrs. Howard who gave me the look she always gave me whenever I spoke, only slightly more intensely – as if I had lobsters crawling forth from my nostrils, waving their saline antenne as they clattered to the floor.
She shot me down without even so much as an explanation for why or a “That’s really creative, but…” The modern education system tends to beat the creativity out of all of us.
Sophomore year in high school I built a parthenon out of cake, complete with tubular pirouette cookies for columns. I gave my whole parthenon presentation then passed out the forks. I offered my teacher Mrs. J her piece and she declined politely saying, “I’m diabetic.”
Oops. (I got an A, though.)
I think one of my very favorite projects was our Indian project in fifth grade. We drew tribe names out of a hat and I wanted something cool like the Hopis or Aztecs, but I got the Aleutians. They turned out to be a really cool bunch, living on the islands off the coast of Alaska in these crazy underground homes in the winter and the women washed their hair in pee the night before their weddings. Apparently, they also dunked their babies in the cold ocean if they cried. That’s my kind of discipline.
I built this ridiculously intricate model of the underground living quarters. I had dried play-doh meat curing on toothpick pegs, a notched twig serving as the ladder down into the room, Hawaiian Tropic Barbie with the Pacific Islander/Inuit features and black hair standing in for an Aleutian woman. This thing was off the hizzook. It took three days to build and I burned the fingerprints off my left hand with a hot glue gun in the process. Heaven.
Nowdays, my projects entail vile tools such as PowerPoints and stupid slide shows. Honestly, I’d rather just make you a diorama of the bottom line.
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty and stupid.
**Name has not been changed because this woman hated me and I think teachers who actively hate their students should be pointed out to other people as examples of What Not To Do In Life.
***Dragees, I believe they are called.