Wednesday, March 5, 2008

You Want Me to Coach What?

If you've been reading this blog for a while--and by "a while" I mean since last March, which is when I started it--you may have a vague recollection of Science Field Day, that exciting day-long science competition for elementary school kids. This year, I agreed to coach "an event." So did my husband. He got "Structures." This means he gets to teach his group of kids to build a bridge out of drinking straws that will hold the maximum amount of weight possible. He gets straws, the kids build, job done, right? Not exactly. My super-achiever, former aerospace engineer hubby, who spent years teaching corporate courses in his previous career, put together (in about twenty minutes, I'd like to add) a presentation and course materials worthy of a college class. Yesterday afternoon, he held a dozen bright kids and their teacher enthralled while he explained the concepts of force and load. He had packets. He had folders. He had labels. The teacher said he was the best coach yet.

I got "Starry Night." When I asked the teacher what this entailed, he told me, "They just have to learn the constellations." Yeah. Okay. To me, stars are shiny things that you sing lullabies about. I think they're made of silver. Or diamonds. According to the star chart I borrowed, there are eighty-eight constellations. So I asked my son, what did you guys do in the competition last year? (I was there. I was outside the door. Parents aren't allowed in.) He said they went inside a room-sized inflatable planetarium and identified constellations. Then they took a written test about planets, stars, the solar system, the moon, and current events in astronomy.

So if we add it up, I am supposed to teach a dozen kids to identify eighty-eight constellations, complete with the names and locations of their major stars; the solar system, whatever that includes; the moon and moon phases; and, oh yeah, what's going on today in the exciting world of NASA. There are no teaching materials available.

I've been hyperventilating for three days. I've Googled and Yahooed. I've looked at star charts and sky maps. I've tried, unsuccessfully, to get a mental grip on how to teach a large amount of material that I frankly don't know myself. I may even have whined a little.

Last night at dinner, my dear son "reminded" me that our first meeting is this Friday. Instead of throttling him on the spot in a minor fit of major anxiety, I explained that I'm having a wee spot of trouble figuring out how to, um, present eighty-eight constellations. To which my darling first-born replied: "But we only have to know the twelve that are on the sheet." 'Scuse me? The sheet? Which sheet would that be? I didn't get any sheet. If there were a sheet to be had, surely I, as the purported coach of this incipient fiasco, would have it, right? "The sheet the teacher gave us," the fruit of my loins--who has been witness to the last three days of parental stress--clarified. This would be the teacher who assigned me this onerous task with the oh-so-helpful direction that "they just have to learn the constellations." Who also failed to make available to me any sort of "sheet."

When we arrived home from art class, I tore apart my son's binder and found The Sheet. In less than two pages, it explained exactly what the kids have to know and how the competition is set up. It also gave a list of the constellations and stars the kids need to know: twelve constellations; twelve stars. Totally doable. Maybe someone could have let the coach know.


sophanne said...

crap and a half-

Are you allowed to still include your fine aesthetic sense of stars. Stars are magical whether scientists care or not.

...Sarah said...

I am so not looking forward to doing homework again. Argh!

Jen said...

This is why I stopped volunteering for anything more than shelving library books at the elementary school.

The A.D.D. Knitter said...

You totally got the better deal!! Can't you have them glue those glow-in-the dark stars from Hobby Lobby on to a giant roll of paper and paint it with that glow in the dark paint? Can you tell I was a Brownie Leader and a Sunday School Teacher?

janet said...

Beats barking dogs and walking hills any day of the week.

Olga said...

I was going to suggest you tie each kid up to a rocket and launch them into space and let see the stars first hand!But, I guess persnicky parents would object.
wet blankets.

Melissa Morgan-Oakes said...

we have here
is a failure to communicate.

I love the idea of the glow in the dark stars up there from a.d.d. knitter. Totally something my homeschooling butt would have been all over.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, use the glow-in-the-dark stars and let 'em make their OWN constellations! This is one of the moments when I'm kind of glad I homeschool. :-)

Bea said...

Wow, 12 is WAY better than 88! I like the glow in the dark stars idea too!

dale-harriet said...

Now see...I'd show them drawings of the constellations and then veer sharply off into the Greek myths where they'd have to come and haul me away in order to save the kids and get them some food and stuff. It doesn't take much to launch me (sideways from *anywhere*) into vast forays of storytelling. (Sounds like a heap o' fun though!)