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Make Your Own Parachute

How do parachutes work? What makes them float down?

In this activity, students explore these questions by designing and testing their very own mini-parachutes.

The Air Up There printable guide.

This activity is a part of The Air Up There, a unit made for Science World's Big Science for Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with Preschool and Kindergarten educators. 

Objectives

  • Design and test a mini-parachute using a variety of simple materials.

Materials

  • Per Student:
    a piece of crepe or tissue paper
    4 pieces of string
    a washer or other small weight

  • Per Class or Group:
    a hole puncher
    scotch tape (optional: for securing the string and fixing tears)

Key Questions

  • How did the parachute move? (Why do you think it floated down?) Why did it move slowly?
  • How do you think the weight would drop without the parachute?
  • Why might people use parachutes?

What To Do

Preparation

It is up to you how much of the activity you prepare beforehand, as you know your students and resources best. You may wish, for example, to pre-cut the paper into squares and hole-punch (or just mark) the corners. If possible, having extra adults to help with string-tying may be necessary, especially with a large class. If it is too much of a crunch, this may be done as a station, with students taking turns.

Activity

  1. Cut your paper into a square.
  2. Punch a hole in each corner of the square.
  3. Tie a piece of string to each corner.
  4. Tie the free ends of the strings to your washer or other weight.
  5. Test your parachute! Stand up tall and let it drop.

Extensions

  • Try using different kinds of paper: newspaper, cellophane, or plastic bags are good ones to try.
  • If possible, drop your parachute from different heights, in the playground or at home (for example, at the top of a staircase). Before you do, however, make sure it is safe!