Recently, the 8th grade class took the kindergarteners out to fly kites. Middle School Science Teacher Guen Vinnedge participated in a NASA aeronautics workshop at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories) over the summer, and flying kites, as well as kite construction, was one of the things she learned about. The 8th grade class was studying a unit on “Forces and Fluids,” which includes density, buoyancy, lift, drag, and turbulence. When they initially did the lab, one of them suggested that they repeat the lab with the Kindergarteners. The students flew kites made of copy paper, straws and string. Each round of experimentation added length to the paper tail that the students added to the kite. Tails ranged from a single strip of paper, 11” long to 6 strips of paper making the final tail 5.5’ long! By varying the length of the tails of the kites, they observed the effects of drag (the force that opposes lift) due to turbulence (the unpredictable flow of fluids, such as air). The air at the end of the tail is turbulent. The farther away the end of the tail is from the body of the kite, the farther the turbulent air is from the body of the kite, so the less the drag can oppose the lift. Extending the length of the tail gives a path for the air to follow, so the turbulent air is at the end of the tail, instead of being right next to the body of the kite and interfering with lift.
Hands on classes such as these stimulate a love of science in the youngest members of our school.