Learning About Flight…Together!

Last April, one of our amazing mentors (who also happened to be an AmeriCorps member serving with Operation: Military Kids Vermont for the year) put together our “Taking Flight” vacation camp in South Burlington, Vermont. Over the course of one week, 14 campers and five mentors worked together to learn about the science of flight by observing birds, flying kites, and launching rockets (among many other things!). Although I personally wasn’t able to attend the camp, I couldn’t help but get excited by all the activities that were planned.

taking_flight_volunteer_photoOne of the great things about the Tech Wizards program, and most 4-H youth development programs for that matter, is the hands-on nature of our activities. We’re lucky to have equipment like bottle rocket launchers, model rocket kits, and hot air balloon simulators. So instead of just sitting back to watch, our participants can do. They can work together to fold pieces of paper into airplanes. They can cut out and glue pieces of tissue paper together to construct mini hot air balloons. And they can use a bike pump to push air into upside-down soda bottles before sending them soaring through the air.

Here are three relatively simple activities our campers did during camp last spring. I’ll encourage you to try each of these activities with someone! One of the best things I’ve learned from the Tech Wizards program so far is the value of working together. Whether you’re two friends, a parent and child, or a mentee with your mentor, I’m sure you’ll have fun working as a team.

birdfeeder_photoMake a birdfeeder – what better place to observe birds in flight than right out your window! Here’s a link to the type of birdfeeder we made during camp.

After your birdfeeder is complete and hanging from a branch outside, take some time to stop and watch when you see birds dropping by to eat. What do they do when they land? When they take off? What do you think keeps the birds in the air? Do birds remind you of any other flying objects? If so, what?

Pop Can Hero Engine – this activity is straight from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)! It might make you a little dizzy, but feel free to check out the video our campers took when they tried this one! This activity helped us to learn about Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Do you know it? Learn a little more about it by watching this video (from NASA!).

Model Rockets – one of the final projects at camp was building and launching model rockets. This activity requires a little more planning and prep work than the other two, but I think you’ll find the end result pretty rewarding. For our rockets, we used the Alpha III Launch Set, but I’m sure most beginner rocket sets would do!

rocketsWhen you’re ready to launch, be sure to think about the forces at work. What causes your rocket to fly into the air? What happens when it goes as far as it can go? Why did that happen? How do you think this rocket is similar to real rockets? How is it different?

Whether you decide to try these activities or not, maybe you have some of your own flight-related projects you’ve tried. Or you’d like to try! If so, tell us about them in the comments below! Maybe we’ll use them in our next Tech Wizards camp!

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