Tuesday, April 02, 2013

"The Hummingbird Flyer"

On Friday our 5's class took a trip to the Museum of Flight. It's one of those field trips that is an automatic winner because what kid wouldn't like hanging out with the United State's largest collection of flying machines, with over 150 air and spacecraft on display, not to mention tens of thousands of other artifacts, and its adjacency to the busy Boeing Field airport which handles primarily private planes and cargo jets. It's where Air Force One lands when it visits, an older version of which is available to walk through as part of the museum's collection.

We started off with a few docent-lead aviation oriented activities, including making your basic hoop glider, a flying machine constructed from a drinking straw, two hoops of paper, and tape. If you haven't made a hoop glider, then it's something you ought to give a go with your preschoolers. They made it simple by providing everything already precut and our docent guided us through things in a careful, step-by-step manner, leaving everyone with a passable glider.

Now, we've made these hoop gliders a couple times already this year at school. They are one of those "just right" activities for 4 and 5 year olds, with just enough challenge without requiring a lot of adult help -- at least not after you've made your first one. Yesterday, I thought since we were all pretty much experts now, I'd take things a little farther, turning it into more of a "tinkering" project.

We started with two kinds of straws -- bubble tea and regular bendy -- plain old construction paper, scissors, tape, and at the last minute I tossed in toilet paper tubes. My prompt was to say, "Today at the workbench, we're inventing flying machines."

At first, everyone got to work making the basic hoop gliders, but it wasn't long before kids started adding their own bells and whistles. 

"Look at this, Teacher Tom, I added wings."

"This part here is a jet engine."

"Mine has two jet engines."

"This is where the pilot sits."

Most of these innovations, as cool as they were, did nothing to help the aerodynamics of their gliders. We were doing this outside and kids were running all over the place, testing out their machines, then returning to the workbench to make repairs and/or improvements. The "just right" engineering project had become the "just right" tinkering project.

At one point William came up to me with his contraption. It appeared he'd started by following the basic hoop glider design, with a rear hoop, but having replaced the front hoop with a toilet paper tube. He'd also added a wing in which he'd cut a few slits.

"The wings flap when I fly it."

"Let's see."

It took him a couple tries to throw it just right, but when it flew the wings definitely fluttered! If he wasn't the first one to discover this sort of flyer, it certainly was the first of its kind any of us had ever seen. Rex then set about proving the concept by imitating it with his own version. He left off the little wing slits and it didn't look to me as if the wings fluttered quite as much, although if flew just as well.

William also pointed out, "It always lands right side up," which can't be said of the regular hoop gliders. In the crush of activities, I didn't actually see this assertion demonstrated with my own eyes, but given his rigorous and extensive testing regimen, I don't doubt it.

William is calling his cool invention "The Hummingbird Flyer" and makes it available to the world.

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1 comment:

Noah Apple Mayers said...

My tinkering class will definitely be making these! Thanks!