Activity: Plastic Bag Parachute
- Lightweight plastic grocery bag, scissors, hole punch, eight pieces of the same length yarn, key
- 30 minutes
- Physical science
In September 1783, the Montgolfier Brothers launched a hot air balloon carrying a sheep, a duck and a cockerel to demonstrate that it was possible to survive in the sky. Air transportation has come a long way from the paper balloon that the Montgolfier brothers designed. Today, jets are streamlined to cut through the air and go as fast as possible. Parachutes are used for deceleration, so they are designed to create as much air resistance as possible. Help your child follow the directions below to create his own parachute to experiment with:
1. Cut a large square piece from the front of the bag. Trim the corners to form an octagon.
2. Use the hole punch to punch a small hole near each angle.
3. Tie one end of the pieces of yarn to each hole.
4. Pull the other ends of the 8 pieces of yarn together and tie them in a knot.
5. Push the key through the knot as a weight.
6. Hold the parachute out in front of you, above your head and release it. Or try dropping the parachute from an elevated location, like the top of the stairs.
Explain to your child that larger the surface area in contact with the air, the more resistance. Resistance makes it harder for the object to travel through the air. So, the larger the parachute, the slower it falls. The trapped air in the parachute spills off to one side of the parachute's top, or canopy. This prevents it from falling straight. A small hole punched in the middle of the canopy will allow the parachute to fall straighter. Have your child experiment with different parachute designs. Race parachutes against friends to see which one lands first, or who can land their parachute on a target.
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