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Daily Classroom Special: How Large is My Parachute

About this Daily Classroom Special: 
Science to Go
provides easy yet meaningful science activities for grades k-8. Science to Go was written by Barbara Smith, Magnet Coordinator at Harvard Elementary, Houston (TX) and former Teachers Network web mentor.

How Large Is My Parachute?

Objective

  • Determine cause and effect
  • Conduct experiments using scientific method.
  • Graph results
Problem

How does change in parachute canopy size affect falling time?

Materials
  • Tissue paper
  • Kite string or thread
  • Large paper clips
  • Compass
  • Ruler
  • Small round stickers
  • Ladder 
  • Stopwatch
  • Scissors
Procedure
  1. Cut 24 pieces of kite string, each 30 cm long.
  2. Using the compass and ruler, make 4 circles on the tissue paper, one each in the following diameters: 10 cm, 20 cm, 30 cm, 40 cm.
  3. Cut out circles of tissue.
  4. Using 6 stickers, attach 6 pieces of string to each tissue circle. Stickers should be evenly spaced at edge of circle, and only one end of each string should be under each sticker.
  5. Gather the free ends of strings for one of the tissue circles, and tie them to a large paper clip. Repeat for each tissue circle.
  6. Take a “parachute” to the top of your ladder, and drop.
  7. Have a student time the fall from release to floor contact. You might want to practice to ensure greater accuracy. 
  8. Record fall time for each parachute. Try estimating fall time of last parachute, based on numeric trends from previous tests.
  9. Construct graph of fall times. 
  10. Make conclusion.
Extensions
Using graph, estimate fall time for parachutes 50 and 60 cm in size. Construct and test. Was the estimation accurate? What else could affect the experiment?

Test one size tissue circle and different lengths of string for each. How does this affect fall rate? Is there an optimum ratio of string length to tissue diameter?

Do number of strings make a difference?

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