Many people have been asking for pictures to go with the Fairy Tale STEM projects, so I will start with Jack and the Parachute, since that is a freebie. Download it here.
Oh no! Jack has done it again. He can’t resist magic beans, and he is once again being pursued by the giant. The giant, having learned from past mistakes, has lined the beanstalk with barbed wire. Jack needs another plan of escape. That’s where YOU come in.
For the design challenge, students will build a Parachute for Jack to help him escape the giant.
First, you will need:
A variety of building materials:
Paper products–paper, coffee filters, newspaper, tissue paper, etc…
String–yarn, thread, twine, ribbon of all varieties, even dental floss!
Really, just look around your house and classroom and grab what you can find. Part of the challenge is making the best use of the materials at hand.
A timer with milliseconds. Milliseconds are important because we are working with such a short period of time between the drop and the time the Jack hits the ground.
A small action figure or Lego guy to be Jack…
and a safe but place for students to drop their parachutes. Either a balcony or a bridge on the playground.
Divide students into partners or groups. I don’t recommend more than three students per group for this particular project, and it can even be done individually.
Give students time to build their parachute using whatever materials they choose.
Here are some samples:
copy paper and pipe cleaners
newspaper and yarn
tissue paper and dental floss
coffee filter and yarn
I DO NOT recommend showing students examples ahead of time. When they see examples, this tends to limit their creativity because they already have a picture in their mind. I highly recommend just giving students the materials and letting them construct. I know as the teacher and a grown-up, I prefer to have some examples in mind, and I would always google some ideas first so that I would be able to assist as needed. Kids don’t need this. They are much more flexible than we adults are!
You will be amazed at the creative and original designs they come up with!
Time to Launch:
When you are ready to launch, be sure to mark a spot so that you can guarantee that everything is dropped from the exact same height. One way to do this is mark a spot with blue painter’s tape. Then make sure the bottom of Jack’s feet line up with the bottom of the tape every time he is dropped.
Talk to students beforehand about why this is important. (It won’t be a good test if they are dropped from different heights because the drop height will affect how long it takes the parachute to fall.)
Drop Jack by himself first. This is the control drop. This will tell you how long it takes Jack to fall without a parachute.
Be sure to measure and record the time it takes for Jack to fall.
Next, test the parachutes. Drop each one (with Jack attached) one by one. Measure and record the time it takes for Jack to fall with the parachutes.
How do we know if the parachutes are a success?
Find the difference between the drop time of Jack with the parachute and the control drop time. If Jack stayed in the air longer, success!
Additional things to discuss:
After the launch, talk to students about the different factors that affected the success of the parachute. For instance, was wind a factor? Were certain materials more successful? Certain shapes and designs? How did gravity affect the parachutes? Can parachutes overcome gravity?
I hope you and your students enjoy this!