A Recipe for Disaster of Cosmic Proportions

Usually my recipes are for a tasty treat. Not so for this one. In our homeschool group today, we did a fun project for science and created a model of the solar system. Let me set the scene….

I tutor a class of 8 5-6 year old boys, which in itself may scare some people away, but thankfully God gives me grace for each week. I *love* boys and know that they are growing on me; I hope I am growing on them as well. regardless, if you have a 5 or 6 year old boy, know someone who has one, or have ever been in the same room with one for more than five minutes, these characteristics should be known to you:

1. They don’t like to sit still. God has designed them (in both His infinite wisdom and certain sense of humor) to require constant movement, and asking them to sit in a chair for any length of time will frustrate them and irritate you.

2. They don’t like to keep their thoughts to themselves. Hey, some of us like to share our thoughts and feelings. When you’re 5 and 6, you MUST share your thoughts and feelings, even if it means that when a class is having a discussion about William the Conqueror, you may have to shout out “I LIKE CAKE!!!”

3. Personal space is a foreign concept to them. I used to think that every boy this age needed glasses on account of how closely they sat or huddled next to anyone or thing, but I have come to believe that they just like to be where the action is. If the action is nothing more than breathing…that’s where they’ll be. God has taught me a lot about personal space (and that I should kiss it goodbye) with my own several kids. At this point, if I can successfully sneak off to go pee by myself, I count it a major victory.

So….back to the science project. Our goal was to create a model of the solar system to scale using different sized “planets” and measuring how far each planet would be from the Sun. Each boy was a planet and a classroom mom was the Sun (at least I knew she would stay put). Using “planets” that ranged in size from a marble to a basketball, we could see in real life how large and small the 8 planets are and just how far some of them are from the Sun. Let me break it down into steps.

Step 1. Take 8 boys outside to find a wide open area large enough to create the model, with the farthest planet being something like 450 inches away from the Sun mom. Make sure it is a GORGEOUS fall day in Kentucky, complete with blue skies and warm temperatures. Schedule science project to come about 2 hours after the young fellas have had to sit and learn their new memory work and use every ounce of self-control to keep themselves from blowing their Tin Whistles until they turned blue in the face, just to ensure that wide open space + boyness will definitely = RUN AWAY into the field!

Step 2. Assign each boy a planet, i.e. a marble, golf ball, tennis ball, soccer ball, or basketball. Ask them to hold it in their hands and stand still.

Step 3. Chase anywhere from 4-8 boys at any given time back to the lineup so we can measure their distance from the Sun and finish the model.

Step 4. Measure Mercury, Venus, and Earth’s distances and have them stand not only very close to the Sun, but very close to each other. I’m positive that the lesson that the Mercury, Venus, and Earth boys took home today was that those three planets do not like orbiting so close to each other and would just as soon shove another out of orbit and cause him to go hurtling into space.

Step 5. Try to get the golf ball sized planet boy to understand that golf balls, though they may look like they can fit in someone’s mouth, actually cannot.

Step 6. Reset Mercury, Venus, and Earth planets because they have decided to shuffle around.

Step 7. Send 1-2 classroom moms to go get the Soccer ball planet and the boys who think Saturn should be kicked down the hill.

Step 8. Console Saturn when everyone wants to have his ball, but he doesn’t want to give it up.

Step 9. Holler at Mercury, Venus, and Earth because they are once again out of orbit.

Step 10. Realize that Saturn is not ever going to orbit this Sun. Leave Saturn’s place blank.

Step 11. See that Mars is wandering around and looking in the very dry grass because he dropped his marble. (He wasn’t the only one who lost his marbles during this project!!) Try in vain to assure Mars that the lost marble is not that big of a deal and he can still partake in the remainder of the model.

Step 12. Somehow get about 6 out of 8 planets in line at the same time. Talk BRIEFLY about how planets not only rotate but also revolve. Yank golf ball out of Earth’s mouth. Collect all balls (except marble, which has been tragically lost forever). Have boys line up to go back inside after pulling them off of each other in a spontaneous wrestling match.

Somehow we made it back into the room. Maybe someday when these boys are studying the planets at another time, they will recall even one detail from the model we made today in the field. It may even make sense to them when they think about it later on.

Or…maybe they will just ponder whether a golf ball really could fit into their mouths.

I love my job.


18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. guinever
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 22:22:05

    Oh Deb, I just read this for the second time tonight, and I have tears streaming down my face. I can’t stop laughing.


  2. Claire Hanssen
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 22:40:28

    Hilarious! Just wait till the rockets. Oh my. You may have to request the dads come in on that day. Oh no – then you’d have 16 males to supervise. I’m glad it’s you down there and not me! 🙂 Claire


    • 2pink4blue
      Oct 19, 2010 @ 21:35:45

      Claire, I have thought about asking Todd to come for Rocket day. I can only dream of what fun awaits us!


  3. Angela Schanding
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 08:25:16

    Deb–Thank you so much for what you are doing for us and your sense of humor! I’m with Guinever–laughing until I cry! I also loved your comment in Essentials about them not really needing to use one of their outline points on the arrow in the face–they weren’t going to forget it!


  4. Deena Wertz
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 12:50:25

    I have enjoyed getting to know you better this year. You are hilarious and I loved reading this blog entry. Thanks for making me laugh and smile. You are a blessing to our group.


  5. Carol
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 15:35:47

    Saturn has recovered.


    • shannon
      Oct 19, 2010 @ 16:13:02

      i just have to say that was my favorite science experiment yet. even if venus had to go #2 in the middle of it and we had to jet.
      also, wanted to let you know that to my surprise last night at dinner venus had two small food objects; one was sitting still on the table and the other was “orbiting” around it and he said, “look mom, the sun!” 🙂 hope that makes you feel better. 🙂


  6. Bobbie
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 17:05:21

    Oh my, we are the Granddad and Grams of Andrew Jirak and Bethany forwarded your story about the project. It is hilariously funny and wonderful to know Andrew has a tutor that is so fun, funny, and caring. Thank you.


  7. Janna
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 20:31:15

    I’m Bethany’s (Jirak) aunt and I’m so glad she forwarded your comments. We live in Southern Indiana and love to hear updates on Andrew. He reminds me so much of my son at that age – who is now 24. I can so relate to this story!!!!!! You are a wonderful tutor!!!!! and I bet those boys will some day look back and remember the fun of this day. I cracked up reading the story!!!!!


  8. mary bellamy
    Oct 19, 2010 @ 23:04:39

    I just read this out loud to my family. We laughed so hard. What fun! i do have to share that a few minutes later my 17 year old son walked out with a golf ball and put it in his mouth. LOL I love boys! 🙂


  9. Shelli Wells
    Oct 20, 2010 @ 13:33:27

    Hi Deb!
    I had the pleasure of substitute tutoring Meghan’s class last Monday, and Angela forwarded your blog shortly thereafter. After I stopped giggling uncontrollably, I spent a moment reflecting on my less-than-ideal classtime on Monday.

    I now UNDERSTAND why every boy in the class wanted to share a enormous amount of obscure information unrelated to our topic, why every boy felt the need to scoot his chair closer to his neighbor until all eight kids were squished into a two-foot space at the end of the table, and why every boy ran in a different direction when taken outside for a review game! 🙂

    Thanks for bringing a smile to my face this week. Our family misses you as well as the entire Lexington CC community. Many blessings!


  10. Trackback: When the Planets Align, Be Prepared « Mom2the6pack
  11. Jill Brown
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 21:24:35

    Deb! I just read this post out loud to my hubby and 2 olders… We were crying we were laughing so hard! You are an amazing writer! Thank you for sharing your gift! 🙂


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