Susan had to be available for parent/teacher conferences at the high school this late afternoon and into the evening, so the girls were with me after school. However, a colleague in my department at the university organizes the annual Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Conference, which was also this late afternoon--and I wanted to attend in support of his work and that of the students participating. The only solution? Take our daughters with me to the conference.
Yes, we marched in--Papa Duck and his ducklings, ages 11, 9, and 7--and joined the crowd of university professors and students, taking seats in the front row to listen to the keynote speaker's half-hour presentation on his research into range crops and nesting and hunting and such. It was quite interesting, actually, and he was an engaging speaker; but I was a little distracted because of keeping an eye on my kids to gauge their interest throughout the speech. They paid perfect attention throughout and, as it turns out, they retained more details from it than I did when telling Mommy about it later this evening!
There was a brief break after his presentation before we were to move into another ballroom to browse the university students' posters on their own research projects and engage them in conversation about their work. To prepare the girls for what they would see in the next room, I explained the setup by comparing it to something that both Abigail and Suzanna have done, which is participate in Marketplace for Kids. For that event, an elementary student prepares a project, creates a poster with information explaining the project, sets up the poster and stands by it during the exhibition, and discusses the project and answers questions about it for attendees as they wander from poster to poster. Upon hearing that what she, an elementary student, had recently done was so similar to what the university students themselves were about to do, Abigail said, "You mean we've been going university work?!"
In the ballroom with the poster presentations, we helped ourselves to refreshments (finger sandwiches, cookies, and lemonade) and then split up. I politely looked at everybody's poster and took the time to ask questions at a few that represented topics in which I was the most interested. There were lots of science, agriculture, nursing, and psychology research projects at the conference, so I got a lot smarter in those fields. Once in a while Suzanna would appear by my side only to be replaced in a few moments by Hillary, so I knew that they were both around and refreshing their refreshments frequently.
Abigail, however, stayed on her own the whole time. I saw her every so often, and each time she was carefully studying a poster and having a full-on conversation with the university students stationed next to their research. She was taking it all in. Afterward a colleague from my department told me that she had bumped into Abigail and had an in-depth conversation with her about the research on display; my colleague said that Abigail spoke with an insight and understanding beyond her years. Atta girl, Abigail! You are doing university work!