Ian researched a space report. He chose Mars as his topic. We visited the library. Checked out a few books. Modern research means that I also browsed Pinterest and shared possible ideas. We watched YouTube videos with simulations of how we send robots to Mars. He had a tangle of ideas mashed together from various movies. I constantly want to blur the line between reality and possibility. I also want him to think critically. I want him to decide thoughtfully. Deeper than the fantastical stories about Mars were big questions about, "Are we alone?" and "Why do we explore space anyway?"
I love how children get us thinking about old questions that we buried beneath a slew of other questions (usually about paying bills or deadlines or what's for dinner?). I didn't have answers for him. And he didn't mind one bit. The exploring, the journey, was the end in itself.
As to Ian's learning process, he enjoyed the ideas. He wrote facts on index cards. Why are the planets named after gods anyway? Who decided that? Which sent me on another internet quest where we had to filter through the sites with STRANGE BEASTS FOUND ON MARS (actually an interesting video showing rock formations and how shadows could look like animals).
We decided to get Legos to represent how people learn about Mars. He was quite amazed that we didn't send people to Mars. So we'd create a station to demonstrate that people launched robots to Mars. Then it takes a robot 8 months to arrive at Mars. And the people had to figure out how to control that robot from an entirely different planet (Earth). We were both quite amazed at the ingenuity involved in space exploration. We found a Lego City set that almost fit our idea. This set implied astronauts, so we'd turn that into a question for his audience. Do astronauts visit Mars? Not yet.
We found cool Space Sand which led to many experiments before the presentation. The sand is super-super dry so it repels water. When you lift it out of water, it's still dry.
Then I said, "Don't you want to paint something? Have a background? A box?" I even saved a box. No, no, no, it's fine, Mom. Don't worry, Mom.
Until the night before. After a few friends had presented their reports. When, all in a rush, he decided he needed a very-cool craft after all. And how could I not have all the necessary things available and ready so he could create this very important vision that he couldn't even share with me without yelling?
Apparent Mom-fail moment. He was in a melt down. I was in a melt down. The cards weren't finished. And he wouldn't even talk about his presentation. Sister managed to help without triggering greater emotional turmoil and at least the cards were done.
Around 9:00 at night after he had plenty of time to calm down, he asked, "So what am I doing tomorrow?"
Oh, the challenges of being seven.
We talked through the presentation ideas. I'd be in class in the morning. We'd have water for the sand. He could read the cards, talk about how the sand was so dry on Mars, then demonstrate the cool trick of lifting the sand out of the water dry.
And that is exactly how everything happened. He presented the little figures. Showed how the robot would go all the way to Mars while people stayed on Earth. Talked about research. And showed off the sand. All according to plan. And it was just fine after all.
It turned out that reports all went home that day. So his project wouldn't have been on display anyway. Chaos and happenstance working out in the end. Here's to explorers, learning, and getting through the rough patches on the way.
I did step into the hall to photograph reports that other students presented. Creative learning all around!