(Forgive the length of the post, Uncle Meyer. I hope it won't deter you from reading it through....)
I finally have Mordechai's science fair project behind me. Despite the fact that we kept it clean and simple, it was still a huge pain. Mordechai was harassing me all last week to get the final details together (order the prints, get the tri-fold board, etc.). Of course, I really should be pleased that he has his project prepared well in advance of the due date as opposed to his usual method of night-before-it's-due-panic mode. It's so much easier to be annoyed and critical when they do it the wrong way than to remember to be pleased and complimentary when they do it right, just like you told them to....
As a whole, it was a fairly valuable learning experience as he worked through the process of gathering materials, clarifying the procedure, recording his results, and coming to a (somewhat valid and relevant) conclusion. He dropped a basketball from 3 different heights and recorded how far up they bounced back. He discovered that it never came back up to it's drop level. The lower the drop height, the greater the percentage of the height was achieved on the bounce back. So, dropped from 2 feet, the ball bounced back up to 87.5% of the two feet i.e. to 1 foot, 9 inches. From 6 feet, the ball bounced back up to only 66.7% of its original height i.e. to 4 feet.
As we working out the ratios together, Mordechai got excited with an idea he had: You can think of it like two people. Reuven has a "two-foot" potential. From your view-point, you see him reaching 1'9" which is not so impressive. Shimon has a "six-foot" potential. You see him reaching 4 feet. Looks like he's reaching greater heights - and he is. But in reality, Reuven perhaps deserves more credit because he's maximizing more of his potential whereas Shimon is not really putting in much effort and he could be expected to reach an even higher level. People can only see what you accomplish and what "level" you reach. Hashem knows how hard you really are working. It's not so much what you accomplish that's important but how much effort you put into your growth as a person.
Mussar haskel from my 10-year-old man. Yiddishe nachas.