Science Fair with Dave Barry : Soapbox Scott Simon on his day at a middle-school in Miami with Dave Barry, author of the book "Science Fair."
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Science Fair with Dave Barry

My metabolism is still set to feel low on Monday mornings. The weekend is over, and it's back to school—err, work. Even when I begin Mondays by having breakfast with my daughters at a cafe, and delivering our 5-year-old to kindergarten, I get a hangdog look when dropping her off at school. She bounds in, happy to see her friends. But I linger on the sidewalk, muttering, "Gee, and we were having such a good time."

But I arrived at school early this Monday, at the Cutler Ridge Middle School, in Cutler Bay, Florida. Dave Barry and his friend and occasional co-author, Ridley Pearson, have a new book for young readers called Science Fair. On Monday, we were welcomed into Charmaine Wilson's science class, and Dave performed some of the "experiments" that he features in the book.

I put that in quotes because, as Ms. Wilson diplomatically suggested, Dave's "experiments" have more to do with vaudeville than science (the first was to plop three Mento mints into a bottle of Diet Coke to set off a geyser of soda—can there be anyone above the age of 6 who hasn't seen or done this yet?).

But it is always good to hear youngsters laugh, and imagine the relief and delight there must be to walk in to an early morning science class and see Miami's best-known humorist (Dave Barry) and his assistant (me), in Groucho glasses, lab coats, and fright wigs, preparing to entertain them. Even if some of the jokes were lame, and the scientific value nil, it beats, you know, studying so early on a Monday.

By the way: Science Fair is the story of a middle-school science fair, which hairy bad guys try to use for their own nefarious purposes. What makes the science fair vulnerable to such a stealthy operation is the parents of the students. They will do anything to help their children win, including funneling ultra-secret government technologies to them. But the best idea springs from a student who melts thousands of mints together in a bid to create a nuclear-level Mento and Diet Coke explosion. Tune in to our show on Saturday to hear if Miami is still standing . . .