For the love of school projects

Last week, my son and I observed a moment of appreciative silence as we tipped the remains of a venerable school project into a container at the town dump.

This was not the "good riddance" I typically directed at these assignments when my kids were young. We were actually sorry to see this one go. Here was a project that provided the foundation for several endeavors - all of which were done largely without aid from me. I had graduated.

This had been one of the first larger projects Matt managed on his own. OK, so the now-worn, 3-by-3-foot maze was constructed by a friend. And my daughter and I helped Matt keep track of the 30 mice who scurried or meandered through its wooden passages while their peers, on loan from the pet store, waited nearby.

But still, I felt liberated from years of "assisting" with assignments designed more for engineers than grade-schoolers. Maybe that's why I propped the maze in a corner three years ago and never turned it into kindling.

When World War I occurred in my daughter's history class this year, that procrastination paid off. A quick trip to Hobbytown helped recycle the maze into trenches framed by a desolate landscape of papier-mache and concrete - all mixed by Harlan. Toy soldiers stood guard where mice once scampered. All I did was remember where the maze was stored.

That in turn inspired Matt in his assignment to demonstrate the Greek phalanx fighting method. The soldiers aged by a millennium or so, props were added, and waves of fighting men duked it out while being videotaped by Harlan.

Watching the fun from afar, I decided that now, I really like school projects.

E-mail newcomba@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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