[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2
Lesson Plan 3
Lesson Plan 4
Lesson Plan 5
Subject Covered: Science
Grade Range: 6-8
Students will have the opportunity to:
- Demonstrate flight principles and cause and effect relationships.
- Collect, organize and analyze data.
(From McRel Standards,
Science Standards - The Nature of Science:
- Knows that there is no fixed procedure called "the scientific method," but that investigations involve systematic observations, carefully collected, relevant evidence, logical reasoning, and some imagination in developing hypotheses and explanations
- Understands that questioning, response to criticism, and open communication are integral to the process of science (e.g., scientists often differ with one another about the interpretation of evidence or theory in areas where there is not a great deal of understanding; scientists acknowledge conflicting interpretations and work towards finding evidence that will resolve the disagreement)
- Designs and conducts a scientific investigation (e.g., formulates hypotheses, designs and executes investigations, interprets data, synthesizes evidence into explanations, proposes alternative explanations for observations, critiques explanations and procedures)
- Knows that observations can be affected by bias (e.g., strong beliefs about what should happen in particular circumstances can prevent the detection of other results)
- Uses appropriate tools (including computer hardware and software) and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret scientific data
- Establishes relationships based on evidence and logical argument (e.g., provides causes for effects)
Science Standards - Physical Sciences:Understands forces and motion
- Understands general concepts related to gravitational force
- Knows that an object's motion can be described and represented graphically according to its position, direction of motion, and speed
- Understands effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on an object's motion
Tools and Materials:
Paper, scissors, tape, paper clips, meter sticks, fans, and stopwatches.
One class session is needed in order to complete this lesson.
Begin the lesson by screening the segment entitled "The French Hero" (timecode: 10:50 - 16:00) from episode 1 of "Chasing the Sun." In the segment, French aviator Louis Bleriot makes many unsuccessful plane flights before finally discovering a design that helps him become the first person to cross the English Channel.
After screening the segment, begin a discussion with students about what they feel makes for a good plane design. Why is it that certain designs work, while others fail? How important is the process of trial and error in experimentation? Write some of their responses on the chalkboard. During the discussion, introduce the four basic principles of flight: Gravity, Drag, Thrust, and Lift. How does a plane's design influence its ability to produce lift? How do its engines produce thrust?
Explain to the class that, like Louis Bleriot, they are going to test several different airplane designs. After testing and modification of their designs, they will decide which is the best, and then compete against other students with their planes.
First, divide the class into groups of four to five students. Provide instructions on how to construct several different types of paper airplanes. (See links below if you need help coming up with airplane constructions.) Have each group work on one design. They will construct several prototypes and conduct testing within their group. Instruct the students to create a data chart and record their distances and times of flight for each of their prototypes during all of their test flights.
The students in each group will select their best plane to submit for the class competition. One representative from each group will line up and after a count down of 3-2-1 they will release their planes. A simple tip: the soundtrack from "Top Gun" during the airplane competition always seems to motivate students and creates a fun learning atmosphere. After the test flights, the class will create a new data sheet and record the flight times and distances for each group's different type of planes.
The students will return to their small groups and make modifications using the scissors, tape and paper clips. After another round of prototype testing, the group will select a different student to take their best entry to the class' final airplane competition. Using the same format the previous competition, have the students throw their planes and record data from this final demonstration.
Have the students discuss their results and modifications in both the small group and class setting.
Several different types of evaluation should be used to check for understanding and student mastery. The data sheet and a written analysis of the data should be collected and evaluated for completeness, accuracy and level of understanding. Students can be observed during the activity to evaluate teamwork and cooperation, and effort. Student understanding and mastery can also be evaluated in the class discussion at the end of the lesson.
You can also take the competition outside to the school field or parking lot. Going outside will allow you to also discuss how wind currents may affect a plane's design. Students may find their plane designs, while performing well in the classroom, may not perform as well outside. Students can begin to experiment with currents by using fans in the room. This might provide a good lead if you're planning an upcoming classroom lesson on air currents and weather.
Give students the opportunity to experiment with their own airplane designs, rather than sticking with the specific designs you've given them. Let students work on their airplane designs at home, or over the weekend, and hold a final competition the next day. There are also several designs on the web for advanced airplane building. These designs involve a lot more time to construct and build, but the results could be worth it if you're class is motivated to put in the time.
Here's just a sampling of some of the web sites where you can find designs and step-by-step instructions on building paper airplanes.
Alex's Paper Planes
Joseph Palmer's Paper Airplanes
World Record Paper Airplane Club
Gander Academy - Paper Airplanes