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Hands on with Grade 6 Flight!



The last time I taught grade 6, my colleague Lisa Nelson and I decided to try something different with the flight unit. After a collaborative planning session with another colleague with expertise in this area, we developed a project in which students would design and test ‘objects that fly’ in a wind tunnel.

The wind tunnel was quite easy to build – it simply involves a fan and plastic tunnel sitting upon a scale. This tunnel allows student to calculate the change in weight of their designs during the testing process.

The ultimate goal for the students was to create the greatest amount of lift they could with the knowledge and engineering skills they had. While we experienced success with that project (high student engagement, creative building projects), we were unsatisfied with the way in which students communicated their progress and ‘ah ha’ moments. The original project had them keeping a daily logbook. This became an unwieldy document that was difficult to assess.




I have cycled back to grade 6 this year and was excited to tackle this project again. This time, I kept the building expectations the same, but tweaked the logbook requirement. This year they are required to keep a photo journal of their progress. Every day that the project is worked on, students must take a picture of their ‘object’ and comment below on what worked, what challenges they had, and where they are going next. With the students, a simple rubric was created so they had a framework in which to begin their project.

Because this is less of a written component and more of a visual component, I am observing students being far more excited and involved in their documenting of their learning. It gives them a very simple way to reflect upon their progress.

Due to the limitations of only having one wind tunnel in which to test, students are also working on two other building/testing projects which account for the rest of the learning outcomes for the Flight unit. One of these projects is a parachute testing project (identifying controlled, manipulated and responding variables), the other is working with paper gliders to achieve a set number of tasks (ie: can you make your glider dive? Pitch up? Bank Left/Right?).

It has been great to have the other projects on the go at the same time, as in the past, it has been rushed to achieve the remaining learning expectations for the unit, as the wind tunnel project takes a substantial amount of time. Having projects running alongside has minimized the amount of wasted time students spent waiting in line for the wind tunnel to do their testing.

Here is the project outline, rubric and parachute assignment:


Here is an example of one of the student flight journals:


9 comments:

Daniel said...

Very Nice your information.........
we are appreciate your information. We wait for next post.
Thanks for sharing.
Flight Log Book

Erin Couillard said...

Thanks for your comment, Daniel! Please let me know if you have any further questions. My email can be found on the CSS website.

Annie Greeno said...

This is fantastic! I have done simmilar projects with my students...but no wind tunnel! I will have to do some research on how to construct one of these!
I also like the idea of a bloging! My students have been doing that all year, I think they will enjoy sharing their discoveries that way!
Thanks you for sharing your work!

Emrose said...

Wow!!! here is something else you can try...
Make groups of 3-6 and let the students be the teachers they have one week to teach the other students a topic about flight my class is doing it i know is a big risk but they can do it!!!

Chris said...

I would love to know how you made the wind tunnel. I've seen different versions online but yours looks the best!

Dan McWilliam said...

Great comments and suggestion. Our Grade 6 team has created a new larger wind tunnel and they have put their instructions on the blog here: http://calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.ca/2013/05/grade-6-wind-tunnel-air-and-aerodynamics.html

Dan McWilliam said...

Good morning Chris,
Our grade 6 team has been creating a new wind tunnel that will accommodate larger models. They have posted their instructions here: http://calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.ca/2013/05/grade-6-wind-tunnel-air-and-aerodynamics.html
Still working on the best smoke source to see the wind flow. Let us know if you have a suggestion.

catherine bernard said...

Hi Dan, what did the students create their logbook on, iPad? What App/program? It's very attractive, colourful.

Dan McWilliam said...

The students had laptops and were given choice in how to create their logbooks, as long as it was able to include both text and pictures. The student exemplar above was created using Pages.

If we were to try it again using iPads we would likely use the Pic Collage or Skitch apps.

Thanks for the note.

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