Students explore the history, science and adventure of humankind's journey through the air. They build their own virtual planes, write newspaper articles, createa timeline, and more.
- Learn about the history of flight for the past one hundred years
- Focus on three periods: the invention of airplanes (by the Wright brothers), the introduction of women pilots (Amelia Earhart), and the space race
- Write and publish their own "100 Years of Flight" news article
Set Up and Prepare
Depending on the grade level and maturity level of each class, activities can be facilitated as independent work, collaborative group work, or whole class instruction.
If a computer is available for each student, guide students to the activities either through printed URLs on handouts or on the board.
If you are working in a lab, set up the computers to be on the desired Web site as students walk into class. If there are fewer computers than students, group the students by reading level. Assign each student a role: a "driver" who navigates the web, a timer who keeps the group on task, and a note taker. If there are more than three students per computer, you can add roles like a team leader, a team reporter, etc.
If you are working in a learning station in your classroom, break out your class into different groups. Have rotating groups working on the computer(s), reading printed background information, holding smaller group discussions, writing first drafts of their articles offline, etc. Details described further in the Teaching sections.
It would be helpful to create a large master timeline in the classroom, beginning in 1900 with the Wright brothers and continuing to today. As you discuss each activity in 100 Years of Flight, add important dates and events to the timeline to keep your students oriented.
You may also want to create a special display for your classroom library in honor of 100 Years of Flight. Include room for the articles that your students will create through the activity.
Begin the conversation by asking students what they know about airplanes, pilots, and flying. To stimulate previous knowledge, students should first create a brainstorming web or list, using "flight" as the beginning word. Ask students, "What other words occur to you when you hear the word 'flight?'" Most likely they will mention birds, the parts of a plane, air, etc.. You can create a class web together of the students' ideas as well. Then ask students, "Can people fly? How?"
The Wright Brothers
The class should begin by reading Meet the Wright Brothers and Inventing the Plane. You can direct students to the articles online, have printouts available, or conduct a read-aloud. As the students are reading or listening, they should keep a running list of facts or qualities of the Wright brothers that they think made them successful when so many other inventors had failed. In other words, what about their personality and way of experimenting helped them create a working airplane? When students have made their own lists, gather together as a class and discuss their results, creating a master list on the board or overhead.
Next, direct students to the Build a Plane activity. If you don't have enough computers for every student, students can pair up to play. Allow students to guess by trial and error, rather than reading the Physics facts and the Wright brothers facts.
Once all students have completed the game, regroup to discuss what they have learned. Review each choice and why it worked or didn't. What theories do the students have about why they worked? As you discuss each choice, read the Wright brothers fact aloud. Were there any choices that surprised your students? Finally, looking ahead, how was the airplane in the game different from the planes they know today?
Have small groups of students tour the timeline of Amelia Earhart's life. Ask students as they read to keep a running list again of facts or qualities that made Amelia a successful pilot in a time when most pilots were men.
After reviewing the timeline, encourage students to discuss their impressions of Earhart's life and personality. What kinds of problems did she overcome? How would her story be different today? You may wish to also read the interview with contemporary pilot Sylvia Barter.
Challenging the Space Frontier
Divide the class into three groups and direct them to read the articles about the Friendship 7, the Apollo 11, or the STS-7 online or printed out. As they read, students should choose one of the astronauts (John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, or Sally Ride) and keep a running list of facts or qualities that made that astronaut successful.
After reviewing the articles, engage students in a discussion of the three space missions. Each group should present its findings to the rest of the class, describing the mission briefly and the astronaut involved. In general, what are the qualities of a good astronaut? How many of your students think they would make a good astronaut?
What personality qualities or skills do the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart, and the space shuttle astronauts share? What makes them different? You may want to chart this conversation on a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles.
100 Years of Flight Newspaper
Explain to students that now they are to assume the role of a newspaper reporter and they have the power to travel back in time. Tell them they need to choose one of the pilots or scientists you have discussed and write a news story about an event in that person's life in which he or she overcame a challenge. For example, students could cover the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, Amelia Earhart's flight across the Pacific Ocean, or Buzz Aldrin's walk on the moon. Students should be sure to include specific factual information about the event, such as the place, date, and circumstances. The news articles should also reflect the subject's personality and how it helped him or her overcome obstacles. Print out step-by-step writing directions from the News Writing with Scholastic Editors activity or direct students to it on-line. For students writing about the Wright Brothers, they can also visit the Be a Reporter section of this activity and follow those directions. Encourage students to visit examples of previous Earhart Gazette news articles at any time during the writing process, as well as your hometown paper or major newspapers online. As students complete their pieces, confer with them and give them the go-ahead to put their writing into a final word-processing document for sharing and grading.
Take time for a Readers Circle in which students have an opportunity to share their news articles. Reflect on the range of personal challenges and the strength of character that come into play. Using the newspaper research and papers, create a complete newspaper or a book on the history of flight with different articles highlighting different pioneers.
Supporting All Learners
International Reading Association (IRA) & National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Standards:
- 100 Years of Flight helps students meet the following standards Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA).
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world. (1)
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions (7).
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (libraries, databases, computer networks) to gather and synthesize information in order to create and communicate knowledge (8).
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities (11).
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language for learning, persuasion, and exchange of information (12).
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS):
100 Years of Flight meets the standards of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), which promote the development of students as good citizens in a culturally diverse, interdependent world. The content and activities of this project are especially appropriate for the themes of:
- Time, Continuity, and Change
Students focus on how the world has changed in order to gain perspective on the present and the future.
- Individual Development and Identity
Students learn to ask questions such as "What influences how people learn, perceive, and grow?"
- People, Places, and Environments
Students utilize technological advances to connect to the world beyond their personal locations. The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists learners as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world.
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions (Students study interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.)
- Science, Technology, and Society (Students study relationships among science, technology and society.)
National Science Education Standards:
- plan and conduct a simple investigation (Content Standard B)
- develop understanding of motions and forces (Content Standard B)
- develop understanding of science as a human endeavor (Content Standard G)
- use data to construct a reasonable explanation (Content Standard B)
- comunicate a problem, design, and solution (Content Standard E)
- develop understanding of science as a human endeavor (Content Standard G)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- use technology tools in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world
Physics/Science (Grades 3-5)
Students participate in a paper airplane-building contest. Using the same materials, students compete for the farthest distance and the longest time in the air. Go to the National Airplane Contest for more details.
Drama (Grades 4-5)
Students can choose to dramatize a specific episode from the life of Orville and Wilbur Wright or Amelia Earhart, rehearse the play, and then present it to the class.
Language Arts (Grade 3-5)
Students write a poem with the theme of "flight." The poem should include details and descriptions of what it feels like to fly, either from a human perspective or a bird's perspective. They can publish this poem online with Writing with Writers: Poetry.
- What kind of person makes a good pilot? What qualities and skills does a pilot need? Is the answer different today than in the Wright brothers' time? In Amerlia Earhart's time?
- What kind of person makes a successful inventor or scientist? What qualities and skills does an inventor need?
- What was the world like before airplanes?
- What would the world be like today without airplanes or space shuttles?
- How do you think airplanes fly?
- Why do you think we still celebrate the Wright brothers today?
- In the 1920's why was it harder for a woman like Amelia Earhart to become a pilot than a man?
- What do you think really happened to Amelia Earhart?
- Would you go to space on a space shuttle if you had the chance? Why or why not?
- If you were president of the United States, would you want to send the first space shuttle to Mars? Why or why not?
Formal Assessment Ideas
Have students go through the Reporter activity from the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, or visit Writing with Writers for more ideas. Once they have researched and written their newspaper articles, print out the results for formal assessment.
Visit Writing with Writers for a news writing workshop where students can publish these reports online.
Use the writing rubric as a way to assess your students' writing skills. This rubric can also serve as a model for a modified version that might include your state's writing standards.