15

Mittens and the Science Fair – Part 3

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Where we are: Mittens had been studying different ways to grow catnip and was accepted to present at the Scientific Cat science fair in hopes of winning a college scholarship. A few days before the fair, a classmate’s mother had tried to destroy her plants. Mittens has been trying to salvage something to present at the fair. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here

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Mittens was very excited. She thought that she had found a way to still compete at the fair. Some of her plants had survived being sprayed by Mrs. Lynxette, and were looking fairly strong by Friday. She packed everything in boxes and went to the auditorium where they were holding the fair.

Registrar: Hello. What is your name?

Mittens: I’m Mittens McIntyre. And I have a project about growing catnip.

The Registrar looked at her list.

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Registrar: Yes, here you are. You’re in Booth #12. You’ll be competing in the Nature category. Good luck!

Mittens took her plants and charts and found her spot. Just then her mother came in.

Mittens: Mama, look! This is my table. Will you help me set things up please?

Mama: Of course. What did you finally decided to do?

Mittens: I brought all of my plants, even the dead ones. I’m going to show how which nutrients made plants strong enough to survive the attack. I have “before” and “after” pictures.

Mama: That’s a great idea!

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Mittens: Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to show that some of them will probably recover more slowly than others. I just have to hope that what I have is enough. I also can’t show whether there will be any lasting effects.

Mama: I’m sure you’ll do well.

Mittens finished setting up, and they went home for the night. Early the next morning, they were back at the auditorium for the judging. Mittens was very nervous; she had never spoken in front of a large crowd before. And she had been forced to rewrite her entire presentation.

When she got up to speak, she saw a group of her friends and teachers near the front of the audience. She smiled bravely.

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Mittens: Hello, everyone. When I started this project, I intended to present a number of catnip plants that had been grown in various types of soil with different nutrients as well as plants that had been grown in water. I was going to show how the different growing environments impacted the health of the plants. Unfortunately, a few days ago there was an accident at my lab.

Mittens saw a commotion at the back of the auditorium. She hoped she was dreaming. Or having a nightmare. Mrs. Lynxette was trying to get to the stage. She was arguing with the security staff. One of the senior members of Scientific Cat magazine went to speak with her. Soon Mrs. Lynxette was escorted from the room.

Mittens continued speaking about how her plants had been attacked. She explained which plants had survived the attack and which had not. She had charts, graphs, and pictures of everything. After a few minutes, she sat down to loud applause.

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After the presentations, she met her friends.

Twyla: Pawsome presentation, Mittens! You did a great job.

Suzy: You made it look easy.

Ms. Minx: Congratulations! No one would ever guess that you almost dropped out.

Mittens: Did Todd bring his mother here?

Ms. Minx: No. He came by himself. Then she showed up. He left when she did. He feels terrible.

Mittens: It’s OK. I feel bad for him. She’s very passionate about catnip.

Ms. Minx: You don’t have to worry about her anymore. They banned her from the auditorium. She refused to pay to get in and pushed some of the security staff.

Mittens: Goodness!

Twyla: I hope she learns something from all this. Catnip was not the problem.

Ms. Minx: We better get back to our seats. They’re going to announce the winners. Good luck, Mittens!

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Mittens went back to her seat and waited nervously. She waved to her mother. They finally got to her group. Mr. Katz, one of the senior editors, was speaking.

Mr. Katz: We had an excellent group of young scientists competing in the Nature category. We also had a little excitement during their presentations. We want to offer our appreciation to Mittens McIntyre for even making it here today. It sounds like it was quite an adventure.

Mittens smiled. She just wanted to know if she had won.

Mr. Katz: It was an incredibly hard decision, and we’d like to thank all our participants. The winner is Peaches Murphy for her study of feral cat migration. Congratulations!

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Mittens felt numb as Peaches took the stage and received her scholarship. It was so unfair. But she smiled and clapped. The Scientific Cat executives were standing at the side of the stage looking at her. After the presentations were complete, one of them approached Mittens.

Ms. Pixie: Mittens, we all feel terrible about what happened to your project. Even with the accident, you were very close to winning. We think that you have a lot of potential and would like to help you. We’d like to offer you a work-study with Scientific Cat. You’d work for us, and in return we’ll pay for your education here at the local college.

Mittens was speechless. She was going to college!

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Pictures courtesy of Google Images

18

Mittens and the Science Fair – Part 2

Catnip and other feline favorites in the garden

Where we are: Mittens had been working for months on a project that was accepted by Scientific Cat for their science fair. She had been growing catnip in a variety of media to see what worked best. A few days before the fair, the mother of a fellow student sprayed something on her plants that caused them to wilt. It looked like her project was ruined. You can read Part 1 here.

Mittens was almost hysterical. It looked like all of her plants were dying. She didn’t know what Todd’s mother had sprayed on them, but it was effective. Her mother was trying to console her.

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Mama: Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Mittens: Mama, look at them! She killed them all. And it’s only four days until I have to be at the fair. I guess I need to call Scientific Cat and tell them I withdraw.

Mama: Don’t do that yet. Why don’t you try calling Ms. Minx and see if she has any ideas.

Mittens loved the Science Club sponsor, but she really didn’t think she could help. But her mother was persistent, and finally Mittens called.

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Mama: What did she say?

Mittens: Since I don’t know what that woman sprayed, Ms. Minx really wasn’t sure what to do. But she did say that I should try to rinse the plants off completely. Maybe I can stop whatever is poisoning the plants.

Mama: What can I do to help?

Mittens: The rules say that I can’t have anyone help me with the project since I registered as a solo participant. But I don’t think it would hurt if you helped me carry these outside so I can use the hose on them.

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They carefully carried all of the plants outside. Mittens took them out of their boxes and containers and gently laid them on the ground. She thoroughly rinsed all of them and then re-potted each one. She put the ones she was growing in water into fresh jars. They still looked awful.

Mittens didn’t get to bed until after midnight, and she could barely sleep. When she looked at her plants in the morning, she started to cry again. She was miserable when she got to school. Twyla ran up to her.

Twyla: Mittens, I’m so sorry! Todd told us what happened. How are your plants?

Mittens: I think they’re dead. I re-planted everything, but they’re all wilted and starting to go brown.

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Todd slowly walked up. He looked like he hadn’t slept either.

Todd: I’m really sorry, Mittens. I didn’t have any idea my mom was going to do that. I feel terrible. Is there anything I can do?

Mittens: I know you were just trying to educate your mom. It isn’t your fault. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do. I’m pretty sure all of my plants are dying.

Todd: Do you have to withdraw from the fair?

Mittens nodded, starting to cry. Ms. Minx joined the group.

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Ms. Minx: Mittens, I was thinking about what happened. Could you present your data without the plants? You’ve been working so hard, you must have the results.

Mittens: It won’t be the same. I don’t have the final pictures illustrating the differences. And I don’t have any exhibits. I think I need to withdraw.

Ms. Minx: It was an excellent project. Try to think of some way you can salvage it. It will be such a thrilling experience to present in front of all of those important cats. And your friends too.

Mittens: All right. I guess it won’t hurt to think about it.

Ms. Minx: By the way, Todd. Do you know what your mother sprayed on the plants?

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Todd: It was the stuff that she uses to clean the floor. It’s not toxic to cats.

Ms. Minx: That’s good. Otherwise, she’d really be in trouble.

Mittens walked home slowly. She was trying to think of a different way to present her data without any exhibits. She hadn’t really come up with anything when she arrived.

Mama: Hi, sweetie! How was your day?

Mittens: About like you’d expect. Ms. Minx wants me to try to salvage the project. I’m not sure I can do it. I can’t bear to look at my plants, and it’s depressing to think about trying to make it interesting without them.

Mama: I think you should go look at them. Maybe you’ll get inspired.

Mittens: By a bunch of dead plants?

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Mama: Just go look.

Mittens went into the back room and her mother followed. Some of the plants were definitely not going to make it. But several were still green. What was going on?

Mittens: Mama, did you do something to my plants?

Mama: No. I just came in here a few minutes ago. I wanted to see how bad it was. I think a couple of them are going to survive.

Mittens was forced to agree that Mrs. Lynxette had not been able to totally destroy everything.

Next week – Will Mittens be able to salvage her project? (You can read Part 3 here.)

Your Cat Probably Understands Physics

Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

 

17

Mittens and the Science Fair

How to Plant and Grow Catnip | Gardener's Path

Mittens was not having a very good day. She had forgotten her lunch, and all the cafeteria had was kibble. Then she had slipped during gym class and fell in the some mud. Finally, her best friend Twyla had to stay after to make up a test, so Mittens had to walk home alone.

Her mother saw her come in.

Mama: Hi, Sweetie! How was your day?

Mittens: I’ve had better. I’m starving.

Mama: Have a seat. I’ll fix you a snack. You got a letter in the mail.

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Mittens opened the letter and let out a squeal.

Mittens: It’s from Scientific Cat. They accepted my project for their fair. I get to present my results next month.

Mama: I’m so proud of you, Mittens! I know how hard you’ve been working on that.

Mittens: If I win, I could get a full scholarship for any state university. There’s a whole bunch of good schools.

Growing Catnip: Information On Catnip Plants In The Garden

Mittens was really excited. She had been working on finding a more efficient way to grow catnip. It didn’t grow well in the soil in her neighborhood, so she had been running a variety of experiments using various nutrients. She even had several plants growing in different types of water.

She and her mother went into the room at the back of the house where where kept her plants after she finished her snack. It was the sunniest room in house.

Mama: Your plants are beautiful! What are you going to present?

Mittens: I’m going to make a bunch of of charts and graphs with the data I’ve been collecting. Then I’m going to show the different plants so everyone can see which ones are the biggest and strongest.

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The next day, Mittens went to school and told everyone in Science Club her exciting news. They seemed really happy for her, except Todd. He seemed a little jealous.

Todd: That’s great, Mittens. But I really don’t understand why anyone is interested in you growing a bunch of catnip. It’s practically a weed. I’m not even allowed to go near it.

Twyla: It isn’t the plant that’s important. She’s showing different ways of growing something. It a method to improve productivity.

Todd: Yeah, but it’s catnip. That’s like growing drugs.

Twyla: No, it’s not. Catnip’s not illegal.

Todd: My mom says it should be. I just don’t think that Mittens should be getting credit for doing something unethical.

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Ms. Minx, the club sponsor, tried to talk to Todd.

Ms. Minx: Todd, do you understand why Scientific Cat accepted the project for its fair?

Todd: I guess. She’s done a lot of work on it. It just doesn’t seem fair that she might get a scholarship just for growing a bunch of plants.

Tony: It does sort of seem like gardening.

Mittens was disappointed. She thought that the entire club was going to be supportive. Now it looked like Todd was going to cause trouble.

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Ms. Minx: It’s not gardening. Mittens has tried growing the same plant in a variety of ways to see which worked best. It’s a classic experiment. She deserves the honor, and we should all be supporting her.

Mittens felt better, but her moment was ruined. Why did Todd have to be so mean?

She went home and worked on her plants. She was definitely seeing some interesting results. Someone knocked on the door.

Mittens: Todd! I’m surprised to see you here.

Todd: I felt kind of bad about what I said. I was wondering if I could see what you’re doing?

Mittens took him into the back room and showed him her work. She spoke excitedly for several minutes about what she was doing. She showed him all of her plants and a lot of her data.

Todd: I guess I was wrong. This really is pretty interesting. I hope you do well.

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Mittens was thrilled that she had been able to show Todd the importance of her work. For the next two weeks, she finalized her data and created the charts for her presentation. Several days before the science fair, Todd asked if he could bring his mother over to show her what Mittens was working on.

Todd: I tried to explain it to her. How it’s science, not weeds or drugs. But she really doesn’t get it. I thought that if she saw it, it might make a difference.

Mittens: Can’t she just come to the fair like everyone else?

Todd: She said that she wanted to talk to you.

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Mittens talked to her mother and they agreed that Todd and his mother could stop by the next day after school. Mittens was really nervous about it. She had never tried to explain her project to someone who didn’t really understand anything about what she was doing.

Mittens: Hello, Mrs. Lynxette. Welcome to our house.

Mrs. Lynxette: Hello, Mittens. Todd tells me you’ve been experimenting with catnip.

Mittens: I guess you could say that. I’m growing it in a variety of mediums to see which one works best. Come see what I’ve done.

They walked into the back room. Before anyone could say anything else, Mrs. Lynxette pulled out a bottle and sprayed her plants. They all started to wither.

Mittens (screaming): What did you do?

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Mrs. Lynxette: I’m stopping you from spreading that weed. I’m the head of the local catnip temperance league, and I’m not about to let you find a better way to grow that poison.

Todd looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him. His mother pushed him out the door. Mitten’s mother was in shock. Mittens was in tears.

Next week: What will happen to Mittens’ project?

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You can read part 2 here.

Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

5

Presidential Debate – Invasive Species

In honor of Super Tuesday tomorrow, we are presenting our first debate. The topic is immigration reform.

Moderator: Welcome to our first debate of the election season. We’re honored to have you with us. The format of the debate is that I will ask a question of one of the candidates who will then answer the question. The other candidates will be given the opportunity to respond. No hissing, spitting, biting, or eating. We do not want the voter to confuse us with the Republicans or Democrats.

Let me introduce you to the candidates:

  Charles Scruffikan from Detroit, MI

  Edward “Biff” Kellingham III from Braintree, MA

  Creamsicle from Los Angeles CA

  Jaime Tiggs from Washington, DC

(polite applause)

Moderator: Mr. Kellingham, let’s start with you. How do you feel about the country’s immigration policy?

(Biff looks confused.)

Biff: Would you mind clarifying the question?

Moderator: Are you in favor of allowing foreigners into this country, either illegally or legally?

(Biff still looks confused.)

Biff: Where would they be coming from?

Moderator: Mainly Central America and the Middle East.

Biff: Oh, OK. You’re talking about Chihuahuas and Caucasian Mountain Dogs. That type of thing. I’m definitely against it. We already have way too many dogs here.

(The other cats nod vigorously. Now the moderator looks confused.)

Moderator: No, I meant people.

Creamsicle: I don’t mean to interrupt, but you mean that we would have to decide one by one who gets to come into the country? I mean, how else would we know if they are cat people?

Biff: I agree with Creamsicle. There is no way that the immigration question can be about people.

Charles: I think I know what the humans are talking about. We have zebra mussels invading the Great Lakes. I definitely think we should get rid of them and not allow any more in. They impact the fish population.

Biff (nodding): That makes sense. My favorite trout is getting hard to find. Some other breeds have invaded the water and bred with them.

Creamsicle: And those fish that walk out of the water. They’re really creepy.

Jaime: In Florida, my home state, boa constrictors have invaded the swamps. They eat anything around them. They’ve even killed a couple of alligators.

(The other cats look horrified.)

Jaime: Not only that. There’s all kinds of plants that are coming in from somewhere and killing off the natives. Pretty soon it won’t even look like the Everglades.

Biff: And there are all those plants and trees the rich people imported that are taking over the East Coast.

Creamsicle: And the West Coast.

Charles: We have purple loosestrife taking over all the land it can get.

Jaime: And kudzu is all over the South.

Moderator: I think we can all agree that those are problems. But what about the people?

(The cats stop talking and look at him.)

Jaime: Obviously the humans are going to have to figure that out. We’ll be much too busy.

(The others nod.)

Biff: I heard that if you stand still too long, the kudzu will grow over you.

Charles: I think we’ve handled this question. What’s next?

Moderator (shaking his head): I think we’re done for today. Remember to prep for the next debate. We’ll be talking about the budget.

(More applause and the lights are turned off.)

Biff: Anyone interested in a nice bowl of cream? It’s on me.

Creamsicle: Ooooh, yummy!

(The cats all walk off together talking and laughing.)

Ed. Note: Exit polls show a great deal of indecision about who won the debate. The only comments were on the candidates’ looks and speaking voices.