Activity 1: Jumping Out of Windows (Grades 3-7)

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The students will demonstrate the ability to apply the use of measuring, multiplication, division, and remainders to situations involving movie stunts. Optional problems for more advanced grades deal with area and volume.

NCTM Standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems.
  • Understand the meaning of operations and how they relate to each other.
  • Use computational tools and strategies fluently and estimate appropriately.

Note to teachers:
This activity discusses trained movie professionals doing activities that are dangerous. Most children have seen activities like these in the movies and on TV many times. The line "Kids, don't try this at home" applies strongly here. Emphasis should be placed on the years of training stunt people have and the amount of equipment they must use to ensure safety.

adobe acrobat Student Activity (PDF File)
Answers (PDF File)

Suzanne Rampe, stunt woman.
Figure 1. Suzanne Rampe, stunt woman.
How can movies show people jumping from high places without getting hurt? At some point in almost every action and adventure film, the hero or heroine jumps off of a cliff, building, bridge, airplane, or the back of a giant flying reptile and lives, going on to save civilization five minutes before the movie ends. Ever wonder how they do that?

Do you want to be a movie star when you are older but you are afraid of heights? Well, don't worry. These scenes are usually real in the sense that someone actually did that jumping. But the jumper is almost never the movie's star (though some stars actually do their own stunts, like Harrison Ford and Jackie Chan). Instead, the movie producers hire people who specialize in doing this sort of thing. These people are called stunt men or stunt women.

The movie director looks for a stunt person who has the training, skills, and experience to do whatever crazy activity the movie script calls for. But the most important qualification is that the stunt person must look something like the star. The stunt person does not have to be an exact double, but the same gender, height, and build are most important. The makeup people can usually deal with the hair. If you watch an action movie closely, you will notice that you never get a good look at the face of the actor or actresses while they are actually falling, skidding off the highway, or running through the burning building. The close up of their terrified face was shot while they were standing in a studio and edited into the film.

Suzanne Rampe jumping out of a window
Figure 2. Suzanne Rampe jumping out of a window
How does someone, even someone who is in great shape and has lots of training, manage to fall from a great height without getting hurt? Stunt people use special equipment, like giant air-filled cushions, and they plan each stunt carefully to make sure that they will be safe.

J. Suzanne Rampe has been a stuntwoman for over 14 years (see Figure 1).

In Figure 2, Suzanne and a colleague jump out of a window, an experience that Suzanne describes: "This stunt was particularly tricky. Pat and I were to crash through a breakaway window and blindly and fall 50 feet onto an air bag below. I say blindly because we could not see our landing point until we were fully committed to the jump. So before the jump, we both looked out the window and took mental notes for the jump. All was a great success and oh what a rush."


Figure 3 is a picture of one of the air bags stunt people use. It is a Model 100 Air Pack. As you can see, it is quite big: 26 feet wide by 30 feet long. It is 9 feet high. Notice how small the pickup truck is by comparison. The Model 100 is rated for falls from up to 120 feet high.

Figure 3.  A Model 100 Air Pack
Figure 3. A Model 100 Air Pack
1. Could a Model 100 Air Pack fit in your classroom? Use chalk, tape, or sticky notes to mark how high, wide, and long the air pack would be along your classroom walls and floor. For any dimension that would not fit, note how much additional space you would need.

2. You are a stunt coordinator. The floors on the building that will be used for a jump scene are 11 feet high. What is the highest floor from which you can jump? The bottom of the windows is 3 feet above the floor. Will a jump from the floor you picked still work?

3. Suppose the director chooses a different building in which the floors are 10 feet high and the windowsill is 3 feet above the floor. What is the highest floor from which stunt people can jump?

4. Suppose two people were jumping together. Could they still jump safely from the floor you picked? What is the highest floor they could use?

5. A Model 100 Air Pack takes 5 minutes to inflate. A Model 200 Air Pack is rated to much higher heights. The world indoor high-fall record-about 245 feet-was made with this bag in the Detroit Super Dome. The Model 200's dimensions are 45' x 25' x 14'. How long would it take to inflate this bag with the same size air fan? Since directors do not like to be kept waiting, what could you do to speed up the inflation of the model 200?

6. Your parents are willing to let you borrow their camcorder, and you want to make your own action movie. Since real stunts are much too dangerous, what techniques could you use to get stunt effects safely?