Not To Be Trusted With Knives











I’m spending my “day off” volunteering at a science competition for grade 6-8 students. Just on a break between the quiz show and lunch right now, so I thought I’d fire off a quick blog posting. Sitting with a group of grad students during the quiz show and watching the competition was like a real life version of that show that was on TV a little while ago* “are you smarter than a 5th grader?” Except it was 6th-8th graders. And the answer is “no”. In fairness, the kids had been studying a book on science from which the questions were taken, and we had not. Yes, I am justifying why the kids knew more about math than I do.

Had you been sitting in that lecture hall at my table, you would have heard things like this:

Question: A question from the physics and astronomy section. Name the three components of the exterior of a space ship.

Grad Students**: Um… windows… doors…. and… and… um…. fire coming out the bottom?


Question: This is from the math category. What is 7 + 14 medulo 5.

Grad Students: [looks of stunned incomprehension] Medulo? wtf???***


Question: A physics and astronomy question. Why do the icy comets live in the outer part of the solar system, while the rocky ones are in the interior?

Grad Student #1: oooh ooh! Because it’s colder! YES! We are so smart!

Grad student #2: I protest that question. Comets aren’t alive.

Grad student #3: Who are you to say that? Are you an comet? Comets might have feelings!

Grad student #2: Do they reproduce? Do they metabolize? Do they??

Grad student #4: This is why we don’t invited to the cool parties.


*I didn’t actually see the show, as I don’t have cable, but I seemed to be all over the media at the time.

**I’m counting myself as one of the grad students here, even though I’m not really a grad student anymore. I have trouble letting go.

***After the competition, we asked one of the kids if we could see her science book to find out what a medulo was. Even after reading it,w e still didn’t understand!

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