'Doing science is fun and engaging'

Winners of the 2022 science fair pose with judges on the patio at the Wilkinson Public Library last March. This year’s event takes place Friday, 1-3 p.m., once more at the library. The public is encouraged to stop by and check out the sixth-graders’ exhibits, the result of several months’ work by our science-minded kiddos. (Courtesy photo)

The Telluride Intermediate Sixth Grade Science Fair takes place Friday from 1-3 p.m. at the Wilkinson Public Library.

The event, for years a venture of TIS and science teacher Colin Hubbard before the library and the Pinhead Institute came onboard as co-collaborators, has evolved over time.

This year, according to Hubbard, the format is a traditional controlled-experiment category.

He explained that the category choice reflects how his students are taught to approach science.

“A big focus of my course is ‘how science works,’ which is, of course, a very nuanced and complex process,” he said. “I focus on how to design, conduct and present a controlled experiment.”

Hubbard added that the kids have been working diligently since the start of the school year.

“This strand of my course begins in August and continues all year,” he said. “We start on the science fair a few months before the actual event.”

He continued, “I break the process into several check-in assignments to make sure the students are on track with a realistic and testable project idea, but if parents are on board, students can choose anything of interest, as long as no animals are harmed. Over the years, we have had projects involving vehicles, guns, baking, horses, skiing … you name it.”

Now, with the science fair imminent, Hubbard said his young scientists are pretty excited.

“After months and months of reading made-up stories about experiments (identifying components, graphing data, writing conclusions), they get to do their own,” he noted. “The authentic audience and actually doing science is fun and engaging.”

Co-organizer Sarah Holbrooke, Pinhead’s executive director, praised the library’s Tiffany Osborne, another of the event’s organizers, for pushing the community aspect of the science fair in recent years. She also stressed the importance of this sort of STEM-related activity for young people.

“One of the first-ever winners of the science fair is going to be a Pinhead intern this summer, working in the machine shop at the aerospace engineering department at CU Boulder,” Holbrooke said. “So you see the throughline from trying something new in science (he won for building his own computer) to successes in later years in a similar or completely different STEM field.”

Added Holbrooke, “It gives kids agency and that’s wonderful.”

For her part, Osborne also noted that Telluride is a community that digs science, which makes the science fair a good fit.

“Truly, Sarah and I and Colin thought (and still think) that we have so many people who love science in this town and that science fairs are inspirational and super fun,” she said. “As a matter of fact, we had an eighth-grader yesterday ask if the science fair was going to happen again. They wanted a ‘do-over’ because they only got to do it online during the pandemic.”

Is the general public welcome?

Yes, said the trio of organizers.

“We love to have the public come and look at the science fair,” Osborne said. “It is inspiring and fun, and the students are so happy to tell about their projects. It really is so special.”

“It's such a pleasure to see the care and thought that has gone into the kids’ science projects that we want everyone to experience the awe and delight that we judges get to,” Holbrooke said. “If you're having a slow day at work, take a late lunch and pop over to see what these kids have created. You’ll leave inspired and delighted."