When I walked into the White House Science Fair, I expected to meet incredibly brilliant kids. I was not disappointed. Among the budding scientists President Obama honored were teens who created a bicycle-powered, emergency water sanitation system, and another who developed a low-cost, robotic prosthetic arm. Though, the most impressive presenters may have been the youngest: Evan Jackson, 10, Caleb Robinson, 8, and Alec Jackson, 8. It wasn't just their project that impressed, it was the story of how they got there. There was no science teacher or school administrator who inspired these boys, it was their mothers. Women who work full time with no science background dedicated nights to encouraging their kids to invent something that was in league with much older students. It's just proof that we moms are more powerful than we think when it comes to giving our kids the best chances in life.
Seeing the difference in the type of education private school students received, they wanted to supplement their boys' public school education. "Instead of getting frustrated with what was not being offered, we decided to do something about it," shared Caleb's mom Natasha Reid Rice. So she, along with Cara Jackson, started combing the Internet for science programs they could get their kids involved in. They came across the Explora Vision science competition and gathered their boys and a few other families for weekly meetings where the kids were challenged to think creatively.
Since all the boys are sports fanatics, they built upon that love to create their award-winning project. The boys shared the story of how Evan had once overheated while playing football, so they came up with the concept for Cool Pads and sensors for the shoulders, helmet, armpits, and groin to protect athletes from that potentially deadly threat. It was hard work, to be sure, but the moms say it wasn't difficult to keep the kids impassioned because it became a part of the family routine. Plus, the thought of winning an award was motivating too. Not to mention getting a pat on the back from the President himself, whose STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) initiative helps inspire kids to take part in these types of competitions.
This kind of project may sound daunting at first, but it really is something any parent can do. "More so than money, you need time and commitment, really," said Rice. "It's a wonderful way to spend time with your kids as they learn. And we learn too." These certainly aren't the only mothers who were worried about their kids' education. Fact of the matter is, every kid isn't getting the same quality education. Is it sad? Yes. Is it unfair? Without a doubt. But parents in low-performing school districts needn't throw up their hands. There are things they can do to make sure their kids get the best education possible -- even if that means learning outside the classroom.
We can't leave it up to the schools alone if we want our kids to be ready for college and beyond. But even long before then, it's about exposing children to something that could untap their potential. Here are little ones with work just as impressive as their much older, college-bound counterparts. It's inspiring what spending a little extra time with your child can do.
Do you wish you could help your child achieve something like this?
Image via Ericka Souter