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Photo: A science fair for the pre-school set

Two kindergartners peered over the railing of a stairwell just outside their classroom at Denver’s Colfax Elementary. On the count of three, each tossed a homemade parachute constructed from plastic bags over the edge; the parachutes fluttered to the first floor.

“Daisy, can you explain why that works?” their teacher Rebeka Reeves-Toney asked.

“Because when I let go, there’s air,” Daisy replied.

“What’s that called?” Reeves-Toney said.

“Air….resistance!” Daisy replied.

Reeves-Toney’s kindergarten class was one of six groups of students, ranging in age between 3 and 6, showing off their scientific skills in Denver Public Schools’ first science fair for early childhood elementary school students. The idea behind the fair was to get the school’s youngest students exposed early to the skills behind the scientific method — including formulating questions and then investigating them, and drawing conclusions from their observations.

“What we’re doing is studying the concept of science and doing science,” Reeves-Toney said. “If it’s high interest, they really have ownership over the projects. You just give them the basics and they learn from there.”

Principal Joanna Martinez said the fair for young students came about when the school wanted to expand the science fair that the school throws for older students each December to include the whole school. But mid-school year, the younger students aren’t quite yet advanced enough to develop their own experiments with their teachers, Martinez said.

“At the end of the year they have the skills,” she said. “We really want them to understand the ideas behind the science.”

Other projects the students completed included building circuits using batteries, wire and play-dough; using air released from a balloon to propel the balloon across a wire; and examinations of the characteristics of insects. See more photos from the day below.

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