I have a friend that teaches 5th grade in Spanish Fork. This morning, they had their 5th grade science fair. She was looking for help with judging their projects/presentations so her husband (my coworker) and I went down to the school to help out.
To judge the children.
We arrived at the school and went to the front office. A woman was there corraling the other judges and giving out clipboards and instructions. We were told that we shouldn't go easy on them just because they're cute 5th graders. On a scale of 1-20, she said, 10 was average and we should feel no remorse giving a child a 10. 20 was for stellar projects and anything under a 10 was below average.
We put on our serious, adult faces and headed into the gym where the children were awaiting their judgment. This would be easy. I would be fair. I can handle children.
I walked up to a little boy in front of a yellow presentation board that said something about a cornstarch monster. That sounded entertaining. I said, "Show me whatcha got." As soon as he opened his mouth I knew this wasn't going to be a walk in the park. I couldn't hear a word he was saying. The gym was loud to begin with, but 5th grade child #1 was ridiculously quiet. And on top of that, his head was turned looking at his presentation the whole time so any hope I had of lip reading was completely lost. I crouched down next to his chair so I would be at eye level, but 5th grade child #1 was determined to not be understood. I decided to just read his presentation board. It looked neat enough. Not so neat that his mom did it, but it looked like he had tried to make it look nice. It said something about a Newtonian Liquid... did 5th grade child #1 know what a Newtonian Liquid was? I sure didn't. And there was no asking him... so I gave him good points on everything except his interview skills and moved on.
A little girl with braces looked as though she was dying to tell me about what happens when you bake cookies without using all of the ingredients. It turns out, she concluded, mayhem ensues.
I learned a lot of stuff from these projects. Some stuff that I already knew (like... that water is good for plants) but a lot of the information was useful and applicable in my life. Did you know that Oxyclean, Resolve and Shout all have the same cleaning power? According to 5th grade child #4's research, there is no difference. Did you know that yellow food dye dissolves faster than blue, green or red food dyes? 5th grade child #11 does. Just don't ask her why that is. She doesn't know.
After I had finished judging my quota of children, I just walked around and asked them if they were having fun. Lots of little girls just nodded shyly. One boy threw his head back and said, "I'm borrrrrrrrrrred!" I was informed by 5th grade child #6 that they were missing math class to be at the science fair. That sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me. When I asked one little girl if she was having fun, she sweetly smiled and asked me, "Are you?" I was beside myself. Heck yes I was having fun!
As I continued to pace through the projects and smile at the kids, one boy called me over to his presentation and asked me, "Do you get scared easily?" I looked at him nervously. Oh crap... what is he going to to? I responded with a hesitant "No...?" He shrugged and went back to chatting with the boy next to him. I smiled and awkwardly backed away.
Before too long, the children were called out to recess. Coworker (David) and I went out to see his wife and play with the kids. A bunch of kids came up and asked if I was their teacher's sister. I lied and said yes. Hopefully that doesn't ruin their trust in adults.
It was fun talking to all these children and trying to figure out what they were going to be when they grow up. One kid straight up told me he wanted to be a mechanical engineer. Best of luck, 5th grade child #3. It made me think back on my time as a 5th grader. I remember being kinda mean and having few friends. Those were strange years and I had no idea what I was going to be doing 10 years later. I guess I turned out ok, though. Little Asia, with her posterboard explaining why Duracel is the best battery, grew up to be a pretty ok 22-year-old.
At least.... so far, so good.