Here is a great FUN project to teach engineering for kids: build a parachute that really works! Thanks so much to Becky of Kid World Citizen – my blogging buddy and fellow Multicultural Kid Blogs board member – for sharing this fantastic activity!
We recently made some fantastic parachutes out of coffee filters, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and paper dixie cups. The kids had a blast throwing them off of our playset, and watching them float to the ground, often holding one of their superhero figures in the cups! Here’s how we made parachutes, and what the kids learned.
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First, I gathered supplies and laid them out on the table. We used:
- coffee filters (the bigger the better!)
- markers to decorate the coffee filter parachutes
- pipe cleaners
- popsicle sticks
- cups of different kinds and sizes (paper, plastic)
I encouraged the kids to figure out how to attach the pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks to the coffee filters and cups. They learned quickly that glue sticks did not work, tape was difficult to manage but worked well, and my littles guy quickly figured out how to poke holes in the cups to pop the pipe cleaners through. I like open-ended science activities where kids use their problem-solving skills to figure out the best way to do things. It’s best to let kids work out the solutions for themselves, because they often find new ways to create that we wouldn’t have thought of!
The boys immediately found little lego guys to put in their parachute “baskets” while the girls found some little animals. With our first parachutes finished, I asked the kids where they should drop them from. They all wanted to climb on top of the garage but instead we did it from their playset. It took several tries of throwing them (like a baseball) to realize they needed to simply drop them so the wind would fill the parachute.
Here are some of the concepts we discussed:
- Gravity pulls things down to the surface of the Earth.
- “Air resistance” (the air blowing up against the parachute) slows it down as it falls.
- The more resistance, or the bigger the parachute, the slower it will fall.
- When the parachutes didn’t open, there wasn’t air resistance and they would fall faster.
I hope you have as much fun was we did!
Becky Morales is the founder of KidWorldCitizen.org, where she shares ideas to teach kids about the world. As a teacher and the mom of 5 multicultural and bilingual kids, they learn about the world & cultures through travel, celebrations, food, art & projects. For tons of global learning ideas, visit her Kid World Citizen facebook page.