Tag Archives: Mission project

Confession: I hate school projects

This post will publish in the Press Democrat on Friday, Feb. 22.

I hate school projects. There. I’ve said it. I’ve often felt like it was more homework for the parents than it is for the kids. Yes, I understand that school projects are meant to be for the kids. But please tell that to the students who bring in the projects they worked on all by themselves only to be shown up by the child whose architect father built an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks.

True story.

At any rate, I am not a parent who does my child’s project for them. But I do have to sit and hold my child’s hand from start to finish on these projects just to get them done, feeding him ideas because he just can’t come up with them on his own. I suppose these projects are meant to help kids learn in a more fun way. However, forcing a child to sit for hours during the weekend as I suffer through glue gun burns while talking him off the ledge is anything but fun.

Recently my son, Taz, brought home a packet of papers detailing the upcoming science fair. He had a choice to either do homework during this time or create an elaborate project. Of course, he chose the project because it’s “more fun” than homework. In the meantime, I suffered flashbacks of every project we’d done in his 12 years of life.

One year, Taz had to create a report on different leaves he found. He was to collect about twenty leaves, dry them, and then tell a story about where he found them. Sounds like a sweet project, doesn’t it? Wrong. Between his tears and whining and my threats that he’d never see the light of day again until this project was done, I don’t think either one of us wanted to see a leaf ever again. Even now I shudder a little when autumn comes around.

In 4th grade, Taz was given the infamous Mission project. For kids with parents who know how to build, this must have been a blast. For me, it was a really bad joke. The book he brought home from the library with the instructions on how to build a California Mission from scratch was totally wrong in all the measurements. I had to stretch my brain to capacity to figure out what the measurements were supposed to be so that the building would actually stay intact. Then I used way too much hot glue, both on my fingers and on the house, because I just couldn’t trust him with the tool.

mission

This year, my son was given a month of lead-time before the project was due. Taz had chosen an experiment that compared the growth of sugar and salt crystals, which he assured me was very quick and promised we had plenty of time to finish it. Since he is now in sixth grade, I took him at his word.

A week passed by, and then another. The science fair project was pushed to the back of my mind as it slipped off my radar. But when I received the teacher’s reminder that the project was due in five days, I began to hyperventilate. She happily noted that we were probably already done with the experiment, and just needed to finish the poster over the weekend. But we hadn’t even started. Even worse, through research we learned that sugar and salt crystals take 7-10 days to properly grow.

We were so in trouble.

Actually, the Taz was the one who was in trouble. But as his parent, I couldn’t help feeling responsible that I hadn’t pushed harder for him to get this done much sooner. I dragged him to the store to gather up all the materials he needed to finish the project and make a beautiful poster to go with it. Then the two of us went to work setting up jars of water, one with salt and one with sugar, and a stick for them to grow on in each.

The first day, the salt one began to crystallize on the stick while the sugar one did nothing. The second day, the salt one grew a tiny bit more. The sugar one did nothing. The third day, the salt one was still slowly growing while the sugar one was asleep at the wheel.

The science fair was two days away and the experiment had failed. There wasn’t enough time to start over. We were forced to make a choice – keep going and hope that something would happen in the nick of time, or scrap the whole experiment and do something completely different.

That was how we discovered which household item cleans pennies the best.

The completed poster
The completed poster

Have I mentioned how much I hate school projects?

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Mission project – DONE!

We’ve finished the dreaded Mission Project, and we survived!  Let me be the one to testify right here and now that anyone who is saddled with this monstrous project can indeed create a Mission, and even have it look somewhat like an actual building.  If uncrafty and artistically untalented me can guide my son in making a stucco-esque building, so can you.

First off, I’d like to share a quote with you found from the literary pages of Twitter earlier this week:

“The way you get involved in your own kid’s school projects is a great metaphor/indicator of your parenting style.”  @cmcauley

And let me tell you, from this Missions project I have learned that the way I parent is on the anal, perfectionist side with a bit of overbearingness, which kind of surprises me since I always thought I was kind of laid back.

Because I love quoting awesome cartoon movie scenes, I have another one for you.  Remember that scene in Surf’s Up, when Zeke is teaching Cody how to make his own board?  And Zeke is totally into the shaping of the board?

“Can I do it now, Mom?” the Taz asked me as I painstakingly applied perfect strokes of brown paint on the ground board, making sure to show him over and over how to move the brush in one direction so that every bit of the board was covered with brown.  But he did just fine as he took over and painted the rest of the board in preparation for the actual building.

I learned that another part of my parenting style was the ability to let this be a learning process in parenting, even though I’m more than a decade into this job as mom.

I did do most of the cutting with the Exacto knife, as well as much of the gluing of the building part to ensure a sound structure, for safety reasons, and because that anal side of me isn’t just going to disappear.  But he did the rest of the Mission, and did a fantastic job at it.

One really cool tip for those of you who will be making Missions in the future?  White paint and sand mixed together make an awesome stucco.  The Taz sponged this onto the building, and it looked really realistic when it dried.  And a tip for anyone attempting this – pay attention to measurements.  We created a fake Mission mock-up using construction paper that we taped together.  Of course, even creating a model first doesn’t mean your measurements will come out perfect.  You’ll see why in the pictures….

Our Mission Adventure
By Wine Country Mom and the Taz

mission4

The Taz taping the pieces together so I can glue them on the board.

mission1

Wearing my Mission Making Uniform, hot gluing the building together.  I do believe this was the worst part of the whole project.  And damn, do I look HOT doing it!

mission2

As you can see, I got a little enthusiastic about the glue part.

mission3

Even Lucci doubted my gluing skills and tried to take over (no curious kitties were burned by hot glue guns in the Mission making process, nor did they come away with paws that stuck together – though they came close).

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At this point I was seriously doubting mine and the Taz’s Mission making skills.  It was looking rather rough with glue all over it.  Plus….

mission7

…the measurments may have been kind of screwy.  This part was supposed to be taller than the building.  And as you can see by the sides, we had to overcompensate with the glue in portions where the cardboard wouldn’t meet up.  We thought we had screwed up the whole thing.  But after painting it, adding the roof, and then decorating it with embellishments…..

mission

…the Taz came out with a pretty sharp looking Mission.  Those “bushes” are tufts of Rosemary from the bush outside our house.  The bells are tied by embroidery thread.  The rocks were collected from our backyard.  The cross on the top is a chopped up BBQ skewer.  And the roof is made from correlated cardboard painted red.

Other people created their missions out of clay, out of sugar cubes, and one kid even had electricity in his with a flip of the switch!  Have you had to make a Mission with your child?  How’d it go?  And how much of your child’s project did YOU do?