Need a Lift? A Second Grade Lesson About Lift and Drag

By Patricia Gable

Aerodynamics is a big word for second graders. But learning about aerodynamics can be a fun hands-on lesson. First, we will read a book together and then use our knowledge.

Materials

Second Grade Lesson About Lift and Drag 

  • Up, Up in the Air by Molly Blaisdell
  • Computer access to Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: http://howthingsfly.si.edu
  • Simple kites purchased at the store or offer materials as suggested in the book for small groups of students to construct a kite.
  • Wooden dowels, glue, string, ruler, metal ring, long piece of cloth, cloth scraps

Procedure

Say, “Today we are going to learn about aerodynamics! First we are going to read a book that will help us learn what this means and then we will use what we have learned."

Read Up, Up in the Air. This is a story about a young boy who enters a kite-flying contest. He learns how to build a kite and discovers how to keep it in the air. The book also includes instructions for how to make a kite out of a heavy-duty trash bag. This can be an additional activity for your students.

Review Questions

  1. Airplanes and kites are heavier than air. What does an airplane use for lift? (engine)
  2. What does a kite use for lift (wind)
  3. In the beginning, Jamar’s kite fell to the ground. What did he do to help the kite fly? (shortened the tail, adjusted the strings, changed the bridle)

Vocabulary

  • Lift: the upward force of air that causes an object to fly
  • Drag: the force of air that pushes on an object and slows it down
  • Thrust: forceful push causing forward movement
  • Gravity (weight): a force causing an object to be pulled to the ground
  • Bridle: strings that come from the four points of the kite and directs the kite at a proper angle for maximum lift in the wind

Activity

Allow time for groups to use the supplies to build a kite. Circulate around the room to assist the groups. You may want to enlist a few adult volunteers to help.

Hang the kites around the room as decoration until a perfect weather day when you can go outside to test the theories of lift, drag, thrust and gravity. Before going outside review the concepts of aerodynamics by showing the short video “How Things Fly" on the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum website.

Follow-up Discussion

  1. Upon return of the kite-flying excursion, discuss the results.
  2. What adjustments had to be made to the kite for the best results?
  3. What techniques were used to get the kites in the air initially?

Alternative Activity

Working in pairs, students will make paper airplanes using the suggestions in the book Kid’s Paper Airplane Book by Ken Blackburn. Then test the planes in the classroom or multi-purpose room.

  • How can we change the plane to give it more lift?
  • How does the amount of thrust change the length of flight?
  • Which style of airplane traveled the farthest?