Kids are naturally fascinated by parachutes: The adventure of parachuting stimulates kids' imaginations, and the engineering feat of the parachute excites their curiosity. Although many children are familiar with parachutes from the classic ball-and-parachute game often played in gym classes, fewer kids ever have an opportunity to make their own functioning parachute. With a few simple materials, you can help your kids make a miniature parachute and demonstrate the physics behind real parachutes in the process.
Cut a large square out of the plastic bag, approximately 12 inches per side.
Cut off each corner of the plastic square evenly to create an octagon, or eight-sided shape. Keep the edges even, so they are all the same length.
Poke a small hole in each of the eight corners with an end of the scissors, about 1/2 inch from the edge of the bag.
Cut eight lengths of string to the same length, approximately 8 inches.
Tie an end of the eight strings through each of the holes in the plastic, and tie the eight loose ends together.
Make a harness for the miniature action figure or other weight with a straightened paper clip, bending the clip around the weight and the knotted strings to hold them together.
Drop the parachute from a height. Stand on a stool or stepladder, and release the parachute. Do not allow small children to stand unattended on stools or ladders.
Observe the fall of the parachute and discuss the action of the wind resistance on the large surface area of the bag with your kids. If the parachute tends to fall to one side, poke a very small hole in the centre of the parachute. The hole will allow some air to escape through the parachute, preventing the airflow from tending toward one side; this should allow the parachute to descend on a straighter path.
Things you need
- Light plastic shopping or garbage bag
- Miniature action figure or other small weight
- Paper clip