Friday, August 28, 2015

Parts of an Airplane

Sebastian always loves to draw and label things. (He spent his free time drawing this hyper-accurate plane mural one day.) He knows the parts of a plane far better than I do. But, for the benefit of the rest of us, we spent a day learning about the control surfaces of an airplane. I will never again be bored when I have to sit looking out the window at the wing of a plane! There are lots of interesting things going on on those wings! :)

This site shows how to make a paper glider that uses flaps and elevators to move in different ways. It's a good hands-on way to experiment with how and why these surfaces affect the plane the way they do.
Here's Abe giving a brief demonstration of that.

Here is a worksheet for filling in the parts of an airplane, and what they do.

And here is the answer key for that worksheet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Aerodynamics and the Forces of Flight

You can't swing a cat in the Aviation Education world without hitting something about "The Four Forces of Flight." There's no shortage of resources, but I'll include a few of our favorites.

This site is just great, all around. It talks about aerodynamics, forces, propulsion, materials, and so forth, and it has lots of good little animations and videos.

This is a very good discussion of the effects besides Bernoulli's principle that act on an airplane to help it fly. When I emailed my physicist brother about the fact that we were studying aviation, he immediately wrote back, "Did you run into any controversy about whether or not Bernoulli's principle really makes them fly?  There's a perennial 'Bernoulli!'  'No, angle of attack!' discussion, as if they both can't apply." Ha! And we HAD run into it. This site does a good job of showing that multiple factors are involved.

Here's another good overview site, with some activities.

This video about the four forces of flight was thorough, and entertaining.

This is a really fun lesson plan about flight. This is where we got the idea for our "drag chute," pictured above and below. It's a very effective illustration of how strong drag can be!
We also had fun making "Magnus Flyers," which we learned about from this video. They are very interesting little gliders! You can see Sebastian demonstrating how they work here:

Monday, August 24, 2015

History of Flight, and Angel Food Cake with Pink Clouds

There are so many cool elements of the history of aviation! All the way from Icarus to Chinese kites to hot air balloons to the Wright Brothers to Amelia Earhart. There is a good overview here, but I think the best way to learn about it is just to get books and books and books from the library. There are SO many good ones! About all kinds of different aviators and all kinds of different flying machines.

We had previously learned about hot air balloons, which are a fascinating subject all by themselves. It would be fun to do some of those activities when talking about the history of flight. There are probably also some activities from our Bird Unit that would apply.

This was a funny video showing some flying machines that didn't work so well!

Here's a clip of the Wright Brothers flying their plane!

The children, even the older ones, had a lot of fun doing some of these historical aircraft dot-to-dots.

We watched this interesting documentary about Amelia Earhart's disappearance.

One of the books we read was called Eleanor and Amelia Go for a Ride, based on a true event where Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt flew together on a plane. There was a recipe at the end for "Eleanor Roosevelt's Angel Food Cake with Pink Clouds." An appropriately aero-centric treat! :) We made something similar, but I used my tried-and-true angel food cake recipe. The "pink clouds" are just blended up strawberries, folded into whipped cream. It was SO good!

Here's the recipe:

Angel Food Cake with Pink Clouds

1 1/2 c. egg whites (10-12), at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 c. sifted cake flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 t. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 t. almond extract

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 c. sugar and cake flour. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in stand mixer until frothy, then add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until fully mixed, and then add the remaining 3/4 c. sugar, 1-2 T. at a time. When sugar has been added, beat egg whites to soft peaks. (They will look like soft waves, and when you lift the beaters, the egg whites will droop back down into the batter---not fall down in ribbons.) Once you have soft peaks, add vanilla and almond and beat for a few seconds to distribute.

Sift the flour/sugar mixture over the egg whites in 6-8 additions and gently fold it in after each addition. Do it with a spatula and be very slow and gentle so as not to deflate the eggs.

Spoon batter into a 9-inch tube pan with a removeable bottom. Smooth the top with a spatula and bake in the lowest half of the oven, at 325 for 55-60 minutes.

Remove from oven, invert pan over a bottle, and allow to cool completely. Gently run a thin knife around the sides, then around the bottom, of the pan to release the cake when you are ready to serve it. Slice with a serrated bread knife, and serve with berries, "pink clouds" or lemon curd.

"Pink Clouds":
Blend 6-8 strawberries, fresh or frozen, to make a thin berry sauce. Fold sauce into freshly whipped cream.
Oh—also—we saw this IMAX movie about the history of flight. And it was good. We wish there had been more planes in it, though. (There was lots of just scenery. Beautiful, but the airplanes were cooler.) The part that showed a bouquet of roses, making their way from Africa (or Ecuador? or somewhere) on various planes to finally end up on someone's bedside table in Alaska was our favorite part. We loved seeing that truly miraculous journey with new eyes.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Sometimes people in movies call helicopters "HE-LOs." Why? I don't understand. Shouldn't it be HELIs? Hmm.

After we learned about Leonard Sikorsky and the invention of helicopters (which was interesting…I had never before thought of a helicopter rotor as a moving wing. But it makes sense! Instead of going fast, so the wind will rush over your wing and create lift…you make your WING "rush under" the WIND! Brilliant.) we made a bunch of paper helicopters and tried to learn about which shapes were most effective.

We used this basic template, and then tried every possible variation. Large blades. Long bodies. Looped blades. Thin blades. Thick paper. Twisted paper. And then the children had a heyday dropping them all off of the balcony.

Here you can see them coming down in all their glory.

And here Abe demonstrates some of his design variants.

A few other resources:

Here's a cool helicopter rescue.

And here's an article and video on the group who won, after years and years, the Sikorsky Prize for a human-powered helicopter!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Air Med Helicopter Field Trip

The day we studied helicopters, there was a Health Fair (*shudder*) at which the hospital helicopter made an appearance. Therefore, so did we. It was really cool to get to climb inside and see all the controls and equipment.

I remember when I was maybe four, we went to a military Air Show and we got to sit inside a helicopter. I was TERRIFIED. My mom was trying to put me in the helicopter so she could take a picture, and I was scrambling, clinging, grabbing at her. I was absolutely convinced that the helicopter would take off without warning as soon as I was inside.

You'll be glad to hear that I'm over it now. I like being in helicopters. So do my children.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homemade Kites

On the first day of our Aviation Unit, after talking about the history of flying, we made kites. Kites are some of the first things that humans ever flew!

Honestly, there are only about two times in my life I can remember actually having fun flying kites. (This was one of them.) I think it is just rare that I've encountered the right conditions; wind that is strong enough and steady enough to make the kite work!

Anyway, this time was no exception. The kids ran and ran and ran, and their kites sort of…floated up and bobbed a bit before crashing down. There was wind! But not enough of it, apparently. However! We could still feel the forces on the kites, and the way the wind over the top of them created lift, and that was what we were going for, so it was worth it!

And the kites were fun to make. We used these templates, which made it easy enough for all the children to make their kites themselves.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Aviation and Aeronautics Unit Study

These spreadsheets look so tiny here. Click to enlarge.
As I said, I wasn't sure this Aviation Unit was really going to be my thing—but it's been awesome. I have learned SO much about airplanes, to the point that I now get almost as excited about seeing "my favorites" as my children do! :) We had a lot of great field trips and watched a lot of cool movies. We were all quite sorry when it came to an end!

Here's the Pinterest board for Aviation and Aeronautics

Here's a movie we got from the library that is good for little kids (preschool/kindergarten) about planes. It didn't really fit in on any of my other posts for this unit. :)

You better believe we referred to President Uchtdorf like crazy during this unit! We used his analogies during devotionals, and listened to all of his talks that referred to airplanes! We love him! Here are some of our favorite talks:
This one, where he compares gospel principles to the aeronautical principles of lift and thrust.
This one, where he talks about the one burned-out light bulb that led to a huge plane crash.
And this one, about an airplane that was off-course by just a few degrees.

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