Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the geeky geologist gourmet

This year is our first year of SOL (Standard of Learning) tests.  These cumulative tests, which span all of the information taught since first grade, begin in third grade and cover subjects such as social studies, science, reading, and mathematics.  For the past month, the kids have come home with various study guides that I've been working through with them, and I've got to admit ... I'm learning a lot of things I never knew before. For example, I now know the difference between a waxing gibbous and a waning crescent. Perhaps I just don't retain information very well, but I do not remember learning the moon cycles when I was in school. Certainly not when I was in third grade!

Do you know what a palindrome is?

I do!

It's a word or phrase that reads forward or backward the same way. For example, the word M-O-M, D-A-D. William informed me tonight that race car is also a palindrome, and as I was saying, "Nuh-uh...!" he was writing it out and he was correct: R-A-C-E-C-A-R.


So two weeks ago, our three third grade teachers sent out an e-mail to the parents inquiring if anyone would be willing to prepare snacks for the children to enjoy immediately following their various SOL tests.  Since there are five separate days of testing, I volunteered for one of the days in each of the classes.  How it unintentionally - but fortunately - worked out is that I wound up being the snack provider for all three classes on the same day.  Which means I had to make 90 snacks, because we had to prepare enough for 30 people in each class.

(The student:teacher ratio boggles my mind, too.)

For the past week, I've been debating WHAT TO MAKE for 90 kids?  I queried the kids, but all they told me was, "I dunno, but please make something GOOD."  I looked for ideas on the internet about SOL snacks, and came up empty handed because the suggestions were for candy like Dum-Dum lollipops (!!) with notes that read, "You're No Dum-Dum ... good luck on the SOLs!" Very creative, YES, but not quite what I had in mind. Because we'd be delivering snacks immediately following the Science SOLs, I wanted to make the children something with a "science" theme.

On Sunday morning, the snack idea finally came to me, like a bolt of creative awesomeness straight from Heaven.  Remember, Charlie and I are both geologists, and we've been to the children's school on several occasions to talk with students from kindergarten through third grade about the water cycle.

A collage put together by one of the teachers, following a recent demonstration: 

This year, our third graders also learned about soil and the various properties of the subsurface, so Charlie and I were in school talking with all the third grade students about topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock.

My lightening bolt idea of making "dirt cups" for the science snack was quite possibly the best idea I've ever come up with .... in my life. From the side of the cups (which I didn't clearly capture in the photo, below), you can see the soil column.  The chocolate chunky pudding on the bottom is the subsoil, and the crumbled Oreo on top with the gummy worm is the topsoil.  While under normal circumstances geologists DO know what makes the bedrock (Charlie once had that bumper sticker on his car), we were stumped with how to make bedrock in a pudding cup.


Granted, a dirt cup doesn't have the same nutritional value as sprout bread and organic cheese with a side of homegrown strawberries, but it has a totally cool 3rd grade factor that is unsurpassed.  Also, since the kids ate these AFTER the test as opposed to BEFORE the test, I wasn't worried about them bonking out.  We wound up using eight boxes of chocolate pudding, 1 gallon of milk, 10 cartons of Cool Whip, one monster sized bag of gummy worms, and seven boxes of Oreo cookies (Charlie had to run out and buy more).


It took us almost six hours to make all the cups and get them loaded in to a chilled cooler for school, but when the triplets came home that afternoon and told me that everyone went crazy with joy and started to hug them and carry them around on their shoulders, I knew that we'd done real good.

Mark this day.  It will likely never happen again.