Science Fair Snag: How Much Should I Help?

Science Fair Snag: How Much Should I Help?

My daughter is in fourth grade, which means she's an elementary school big kid. Things change in fourth grade. You get to do the school spelling bee. And the science fair. Or rather, you and your parents get to do the science fair.

Now, this isn't a rant. The science fair wasn't mandatory. We wanted her to do it, because, well, SCIENCE. And since she quit ballet at the semester back in December, the kid has been entirely too relaxed. We can't have that.

science fair projects

Credit Image: memekiiller on Flickr

I admit to being surprised there was a parent meeting for the science fair, though. And though the teacher reassured us the expectations for fourth graders didn't extend far behind mastering the scientic method, there was a lot of "they'll need your help" messaging in there, too.

I already struggle between the amount of help I want to give her, the amount of help I think I should give her, and the amount of help I feel I'm expected to give her. I don't like doing homework. I'm happy to be there if she gets stuck, but I don't WANT to have to do the math to check over her homework for her, and I can't tell if that's the expectation or not when there is a signature line for my name right there on the worksheet. Initially I checked it over. Then she started long division. Now I just make sure she did the work and sign the sheet. Somewhere in there I turned a corner from "I'm being helpful" to "I'm scared I'm doing her homework for her if I tell her what's wrong if it's just sloppiness and not actual confusion." So when I heard about the science fair parent meeting, I was afraid there would be not only helicopter parenting but the expectation of helicopter parenting involved with those little posterboard wonders.

On the day of the science fair teacher meeting, I mentioned it to my coworkers on our internal chat. They had opinions, oh yes, indeedy.

science fair chat

Have your kids done science fairs? Did you do them when you were a kid? What do you think -- how much should I help?

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of Find more at

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