Fifth Grade Science Fairs and Tomato Cannibalism

Long, long ago, I was in fifth grade, my mind was weird, and I participated in a science fair.

Like all the other fifth graders in my school, I was assigned to do my very first science fair. I was very excited. I was going to revolutionize the world. I was going to discover something new, brilliant, and world-changing.

I scoured the internet, searching for the perfect project, but none of them were good enough. They were too easy, too boring, too plain. None of them were special enough, unique enough. I needed something new, something great.

So I scoured my mind for the perfect solution, the perfect project. An idea had been stirring in the back of my mind for a while, ever since the beginning, before the announcement of the project had yet to reach an hour of age.

I was going to see if tomato ketchup would help tomato plants grow, essentially, tomato cannibalism.

I received my first pet plant for this very science fair. I grew those tomato plants from little round seeds, checking the moist, brown soil every day to see evidence of sprouts pushing their way to the sun.

After they’d grown for a little while to a significant height, I began my experiment. The plan was to give one pot of plants (the control group) two tablespoons of water every other day and give the other pot of plants (the test group) one tablespoon of water and one tablespoon of tomato ketchup.

A simile: My fifth-grade science project was like feeding babies a paste made from ground-up and seasoned dead people.

“Every other day”, I would count the total number of leaves in each pot and record the height of the tallest plant (each pot contained about 13 tomato plants).

In the previous paragraph/sentence, I put “”Every other day,”” in quotation marks because “every other day” was how often I’d planned to water the plants and record their height and leaves, but this was not how it actually turned out. I was a very busy fifth grader, and I often forgot about my tomato plants locked away in the sunny guest bedroom, which I rarely visited.

Every once in a while, I would water them and record data, but this was very inconsistent. Eventually, they shriveled up and died from lack of water and love, but in the official report (aka my science fair board) their death was blamed on the innocent ketchup.

My project was called “Catch up on the Ketchup News”, catchy, right? The title was hand-painted, the graphs were hand-drawn, and the pictures of the plants were also hand-drawn (as I didn’t know we were supposed to take pictures. How convenient that I could portray my dying plants however I pleased…).

I found my board a few months ago. While I was brimming with pride in fifth grade, I now see it for what it truly was: horrifying and immoral.