Monday, May 24, 2010

More Lapbook Ideas and a Unit Study on Flight

I promised to share with you some more ideas for lapbooks and outline in more detail one of our best unit studies 'First to Fly' which introduces children to the physics of flight by taking them through the incredible story of the Wright brothers. Take a peek inside our 'First to Fly' book and you will find accounts of experiments, models from the aviation timeline we constructed which was strung across the rafters in our dining room for several months, an essay by my son who was 12 at the time and adorable drawings of famous aviators such as Amelia Earhart by my daughter.

These samples are the materials we used to make aerofoils - the special shape of the wing of a plane which is more curved on its upper surface than underneath. After constructing the aerofoils, they are mounted on skewers, inserted into a styrofoam block and have to be tested using a hairdryer to create lift to make the aerofoil climb the skewer. This is just one of the different experiments undertaken during this unit. Can you imagine how much fun my children had! They also made model planes and had test flights and competitions outside! There was enough scope in the activities to cater for a 12 year old and allow his 4 year old brother to participate too! I just love this multi-level learning!

All the information and activities for this unit came from one book 'The Wright Brothers for Kids How they invented the Aeroplane' by Mary Kay Carson published by Chicago Review Press. This fantastic resource gives a detailed history of the life of the Wright brothers - perfect for our read alouds with numerous black and white photographs accompanying the text and there are 21 different activities which teach children the physics and dynamics of flight. We did not do them all, just chose the ones for which we had materials and equipment readily available - such as mum's hairdyer!

Here is an outline of what we studied. I have included this for any home educators reading this post who may want to do a unit on flight. I highly recommend the book I used but there are lots of resources on the Wright brothers out there should you not be able to find this particular resource.

Part 1. Early Days
Read aloud corresponding chapters.
Begin construction of timeline - adding in early aviation events such as 1st balloon flight.
Make some models or use toys that fascinated the Wright brothers as children - make and fly a kite, use an old fashioned spinning top.

Part 2. First thoughts of flight
Read and discuss 'bird envy'. Observe birds in the garden. Make a flip and fly book to illustrate the sequence of wing movements in birds.
Ballooning - grocery bags and a hairdyer required to explore the lighter than air technology of ballooning.
The 4 forces of flight - make aerofoils and test them
Read about Sir George Cayley's contribution to the field of aeronautics.

Part 3 Under Control
Learn the 3 axes of motion - make a model plane using a kit. Have each child demonstrate roll, pitch and yaw.
Use a long box to demonstrate 'wing warping' in the same way that Wilbur discovered it using a bicycle inner tube box.

Part 4 Gliding at Kitty Hawk
Read about the Wright's gliding adventures
Design and construct paper gliders, use different wing shapes to test their performance.
Make a replica model of the 1902 glider and display on the timeline. (Wish this was still around to show you. My son made an amazing model using just card, sellotape and bamboo skewers!)

Part 5 A Dream Fulfilled
Read about the feat achieved at Kitty Hawk. Discuss the approach of the Wright brothers that enabled them to be the 'First to Fly'. We also watched a movie/documentary.
Make model propellers.
Draw up a replica set of plans for the 1903 Wright flyer.(Maths/measurement activity for 12 year old)

Part 6 The Wright Brothers Legacy
Read about the history that followed, the perfection of the plane, the legal battles, media reaction.
Further reading/ research on other famous aviators such as Amelia Earhart, Jean Batten and Richard Pearse, a relatively unknown New Zealander who built and flew a powered flying machine prior to the Wrights - but why were the Wright brothers considered 'first to fly.'

It does sound involved but with the book as my main resource we worked our way steadily through each chapter. For at least one month maybe longer because the boys were so fascinated by the subject, we read and discussed flight, drew pictures, made models. It was so interesting and the hands on activities were relatively simple to organize. To this day the 4 forces of flight are etched in my brain! At the end of the unit I asked my son to write a short essay on the Wright brothers asking why they were first to fly. It was apparent from his answer that he understood, citing their scientific approach, their detailed research, debating with others, coupled with chance discoveries.

Another activity which might appeal to boys is to learn together the stages of how something is built - in this instance, a car. My son was very small at the time and wanted to know how a car was built so I found a book which outlined the different stages and made him a concertina book. This folds out and was made over several days.

You can make concertina books for any kind of process. We made a giant fold out sunflower to show the stages of growth for a plant. Fold out books can also be used when constructing timelines. The one below was made for a study on the history of housing. You could make models of course but these are not as easy to store.

Models also tend to be played with, especially planes and the cardboard castle we constructed for our unit on medieval life. This is one model that has survived - my son's model of a mobile phone from the year 2000! The glued on rubber numbers have long fallen off. This is the same son who wanted to know how a car was built. 'Mum how do cell phones work? I came up with the idea of the giant model mobile and found out all he needed to know at the time at

The same son was thrilled to win a Lego movie making set when he was 8 years old for a drawing he entered in a Lego club competition - he wanted to win that set I can tell you and worked diligently on his drawing. Can you imagine his delight when he found out he had won! He even made the front page of the local newspaper because a relative rang them up and let them know that a local boy had won the New Zealand section - there was only one prize for the country!
I'm sharing this to encourage you to allow your children to enter competitions as part of their education - art, writing, country fairs and A and P shows. When there is a prize it really motivates them to do their best!

Isn't it interesting that today he is doing a technology degree? Who knows what your model building child could be doing one day! But models do not have to be massive or major undertakings.

Making a simple cardboard microscope encourages a child to take a close look at the layers of rock and learn the names in the process - much more fun that just doing a black and white diagram!

Here's a unit that will appeal to both boys and girls. 'Mad about Medieval' was probably the most involved unit we have ever undertaken and definitely one of the most memorable for at its conclusion we hosted a medieval banquet to which we invited several families. We decorated the 'Great Room', dressed ourselves and the table and cooked authentic medieval recipes - I spent a whole day in the kitchen but I can tell you medieval food is delicious. This is the menu card from our dinner.

We also made a huge cardboard castle, the boys relished the chance to construct and use 'play' swords and we created a family shield to learn about heraldry. Also a good time to learn about the art of chivalry! This is for sure, a once a year full on unit. We do not always go to such extremes but it was so much fun and lots of learning took place. On the day of the banquet we had friends from overseas ring us to tell us they were in Australia and traveling through our region. 'Could they call in to see us - would we be home? 'Yes, we'd love you to come and see us - we're home, we're not up to much, just cooking a medieval banquet!'

I still have some more ideas for lapbooks - bear in mind we are digging into archives here - this is not just one year's worth of learning! We have been using a unit study approach to learning for almost 12 years and I have kept a lot of the resources my children created. I have so much to show you - more ideas for lapbook components, useful resources to have in your craft supplies for creating lapbooks and homemade board games. I will also share how my older children moved on from this style of learning to a more personalized study approach in the high school years.

More inspiration coming soon.

With Love and Joy,

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Parisienne Farmgirl said...

Anne, If you EVER come to the States and have a lay-over in Chicago please call me! I would love to meet you!

Joolz said...

All I can say is - How lucky your children are to have a mother who is so involved and excited about their learning. School time must be fun.

Cheers - Joolz

SF said...

It looks wonderful Ann..... we are SO doing the medieval study and banquet!!!! :D

Thanks so much for sharing, keep the posts coming :) xoxo

Ann at eightacresofeden said...

Saiminda - we read aloud 'The Door in the Wall' by Margerite de Angeli during our Medieval study. She researched medieval life in England before writing the book - it is a classic! And the family shield we made featured a silver fern, a koala and for me a 'Liver bird' from Liverpool! Wish I had taken a photo of it! Perhaps yours could feature a musical emblem?! I can see Saraya now in her outfit - roll up cloth nappies in velvet fabric, twist gold thread around them and you have an easy to make headdress. Oh the stuff that I remember!

Camille said...

Another great post Ann! Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom with us. I appreciate the comment at the end of your post where you state that this is the result of many years of accumulation...that is encouraging! ;-) I agree that lap books and unit studies are a great way to is amazing what is retained when this type of hands-on approach is learned. I want to incorporate more of this in our upcoming year of school. Thanks for the inspiration!


Renata said...

I'm loving these posts Ann! Thanks for sharing - I enjoy learning from an experienced mum! That flight book sounds fantastic - we have many books on aeroplanes here, but not that one. I like the ideas you shared - it sounds quite achieveable.
Looking forward to your next post!

Parisienne Farmgirl said...

Off Topic to this post sorry-
but I would love to get an email from you about your water garden 'cause I would love to make my little pond bigger in a few weeks so we could wade in it and cool off but I want it clean and clear. I have read about ones like yours before but would love details!!!! My email is on my sidebar!


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