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Inventors And Inventions 2: Air And SpaceInventors-And-Inventions-2-Air-And-Space

  • Subject: Technology
  • |
  • Grade(s): K-5
  • |
  • Duration: One class period

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. They can conduct an experiment in which they change the size, weight, and wing structure of paper airplanes to see how each plane flies.


For this lesson, you will need:
Paper for making paper planes


1. Students may enjoy participating in a paper airplane design contest. Elicit stories students may want to tell about prior experiences with flying paper planes.
2. From an activities book or from your memory, demonstrate the construction of a basic paper airplane. Ask students to follow your example.
3. Conduct a contest by dividing the class into groups and letting the groups compete. The winners from all the groups should then compete against each other. Let students participate in setting the starting line.
4. When results are in, encourage students to account for the differences in speed and direction of their planes. Help students understand that an important variable is the way each student handled his or her plane. Explain that for the next competition, you will keep that variable constant by using only one "pilot." In the next competition, though, the pilot will fly many different styles of paper planes to see which design goes farthest or fastest.
5. Discuss with the students in what ways they can vary their original plane design. They should suggest at a minimum making the paper planes larger or smaller, making them lighter (by cutting holes?), or bending or curving the wings in various ways.
6. With one student attempting to use the same thrust for each plane he or she speeds on its way, note with the class how long each plane stays aloft and how far it travels.
7. Proceed to discuss with students what they learned from this activity—and what further work they would have to do before being sure of what accounts for speed, altitude, and distance.

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Make several different designs of planes. Give students the opportunity to "pilot" them, each student working with all the planes, "launching" them all the same way, so that he or she can see how design affects altitude, duration of flight, and distance.

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Discussion Questions

1. Before the invention of airplanes, by what other means do you think people traveled or tried to travel through the air?
2. Before and during World War I, why was the United States army so excited by the invention of the airplane?
3. What's the basic difference between an airplane and a helicopter?
4. What do you think airplanes of the future will offer that today's airplanes do not?
5. What effect have airplanes in the United States had on travel by railroad?

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You may not want to assess students on the airworthiness of their planes but rather focus on how well the students participate in class discussions regarding the paper planes.

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From Space to Earth
Brainstorm with students a list of products that were invented for use in space but are now marketed to Earth-bound humans as well. Examples include dehydrated foods, portable showers, pencils that write when held upside down, fabrics that retain heat, and so on.

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Suggested Readings

by Donald S. Lopez (Editor), Time-Life Books, 1995.

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This is NASA's K-12 Internet site.

Aeronautics Learning Laboratory for Science Technology, and Research (ALLSTAR) Network
This site includes lessons on history, principles of flight and careers, and a large image gallery.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    aerodynamic (sorry, audio not available).
Definition: Designed to move through the air easily and quickly
Context: Designers create airplane wings to be as aerodynamic as possible.

speaker    thrust (sorry, audio not available).
Definition: A driving force
Context: A jet achieves thrust by ejecting exhaust gases from its rear.

speaker    turbulence (sorry, audio not available).
Definition: A state of roughness in terms of weather conditions
Context: The pilot told passengers to stay in their seats until the plane passed through the area of turbulence.

speaker    wingspan (sorry, audio not available).
Definition: The distance between the outer tips of the wings of an aircraft
Context: Changing the wingspan affects the flight of paper airplanes.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: K-2
Subject area: science and technology
Understands the nature of technological design.
Knows that some objects occur in nature, whereas others have been designed and made by people to solve human problems.

Grade level: 3-5
Subject area: science and technology
Understands the nature of technological design.
Knows that designing a solution to a simple problem may have constraints, such as cost, materials, time, space, and safety.

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Summer Productions, Inc.

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