First-graders at Copeland Manor School watched breathlessly as elves in handmade parachutes were dropped from a lift high in the gym Monday during the Elf Drop. Almost 60 students participated in the second-annual event at the Libertyville school as part of a science unit.

"We do this project in a way to let them practice their STEM design challenging. It lets them practice researching and creating something and then working on something that doesn't necessarily always work all the time," first-grade teacher Nichole Vipond said. "They loved it and they loved being in charge and being able to be in control with minimal guidance from the teachers."

Elves were chosen because of the popularity of the Elf on A Shelf toy, and it was good way to hook in on the elf mania, she said.

Physical education teacher Chris Ramlow took the designs from each of the classes and went up on a lift in the gym until his head nearly touched the ceiling. He dropped each elf design while students watched them float to the ground with varying success.

"The elf on mine was in a little cup that was connected to a coffee filter. I was trying to do a few different things and it safely came down to the ground," first-grader Francis Tscheyka said after using an iPad to record his parachute as it floated from the lift. "My heart was pounding and I kept wondering 'is this was going to work, is this going to work' and it worked."