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Suburban Island

Blinded by Science
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004, 9:14 p.m.

QUESTION: How do I get to Code Green?

WHAT I LEARNED? Science and Styrofoam go hand-in-hand.

This is what I learned this week Ė I am not a scientist. Not only that, I have no desire to be a scientist. I donít care about molecules. I donít care about chemical compounds. And DNA Ė donít get me started. I know, I know Ė itís important Ė but I donít care because where there is DNA and a science class, there is always the probability of a DNA model project threat at the ready. Science projects scare me. Code Yellow.

Science projects scare me because I know that there is a high probability that I Ė the parent Ė will be called in on the project in my advisory capacity. Code Orange.

As I feared, my son recently came home with a science project to put together. He had to construct a model of a DNA molecule. He had to be creative. He had to use color. He had to make it twisty. Yes, that double helix thing bumps this up a notch. Code Red.

I am impressed that the kid can come up with a DNA model using only wooden sticks, Styrofoam balls, 2 clear CD cases, and a hot glue gun. I would have used chewing gun, some balled up wrapping paper, a few toothpicks, and some coffee cup lids if I were doing it but hey, thatís the beauty of individual vision Ė and those Styrofoam balls. Code Orange.

This morning, the kid took the project to school. This afternoon, the kid brought the project back home. It seems that the teacher wanted a little heavier hand on the paint and a few more Styrofoam balls. I have no idea what he thought of the clear CD cases that formed the base and top of the model. Code Red.

It turns out most of the other kids went to the craft store and bought the molecule building kit. After dinner we drove down and got one for ourselves Ė a bargain at $12.95. It was comprised of 63 Styrofoam balls, some cut up pipe cleaners - referred to as tinsel text stems - to represent those all important bonds, and some helpful instructions that I would classify as rather un-helpful really. All this was stuffed into a big clear plastic container with the lid stapled on so tight you couldnít tear it off when you got it home which, I can only suppose is part of the excitement of utilizing the molecule building kit. Code Orange.

The outcome Ė well, itís been an hour and the DNA project is still underway. The CD cases are history, thereís been a lot of painted of Styrofoam, and the glue gun was called back into action. Itís looking pretty good and I am tempted to think that I will soon be able to downgrade this emergency to a Code Blue.

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