Celebrating 100 Years of Flight for Grades 6-8
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
The focus for students in this age group is on the ways pioneering pilots such as the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and the space shuttle astronauts have changed history and society. Students will practice their reading comprehension, note taking, and writing skills.
- Learn about the history of flight for the past one hundred years
- Focus on three periods: the invention of airplanes (by the Wright brothers), the introduction of women pilots (Amelia Earhart), and the space race
- Write and publish their own "100 Years of Flight" news article
Set Up and Prepare
Depending on the grade level and maturity level of each class, activities can be facilitated as independent work, collaborative group work, or whole class instruction.
If a computer is available for each student, guide students to the activities either through printed URLs on handouts or on the board.
If you are working in a lab, set up the computers to be on the desired Web site as students walk into class. If there are fewer computers than students, group the students by reading level. Assign each student a role: a "driver" who navigates the web, a timer who keeps the group on task, and a note taker. If there are more than three students per computer, you can add roles like a team leader, a team reporter, etc.
If you are working in a learning station in your classroom, break out your class into different groups. Have rotating groups working on the computer(s), reading printed background information, holding smaller group discussions, writing first drafts of their articles offline, etc. Details described further in the Teaching sections.
It would be helpful to create a large master timeline in the classroom, beginning in 1900 with the Wright brothers and continuing to today. As you discuss each activity in 100 Years of Flight, add important dates and events to the timeline to keep your students oriented.
You may also want to create a special display for your classroom library in honor of 100 Years of Flight. Include room for the articles that your students will create through the activity.
Begin the conversation by asking students, "What would the world be like if humans could not fly?" Students may want to take some time to write a fictional account of a world without human flight. Discuss their answers and then on the board write a list of ways in which flight affects our world, both positively and negatively. How does flying affect our relationship with other countries?
The Wright Brothers
The class should begin by reading Meet the Wright Brothers and Inventing the Plane. You can direct students to the articles online or have printouts available. As the students are reading, they should keep a running list of facts or qualities of the Wright brothers that they think made them successful when so many other inventors had failed. In other words, what about their personality and way of experimenting helped them create a working airplane? When students have made their own lists, gather together as a class and discuss their results, creating a master list on the board or overhead. Make sure to discuss the scientific method and how it affected their invention process.
Next, direct students to the Build a Plane activity. If you don't have enough computers for every student, students can pair up to play. Direct students to read the Physics facts and the Wright brothers facts, rather than guessing simply by trial and error
Once all students have completed the game, regroup to discuss what they have learned. Review each choice and why it worked or didn't, discussing the aeronautics and physics involved. Discuss how the Wright brothers made their choices. Were there any choices that surprised your students? Finally, looking ahead, how was the airplane in the game different from the planes they know today?
Have small groups of students tour the timeline of Amelia Earhart's life. Ask students as they read to keep a running list comparing Amelia's life to the world events happening at the same time.
After reviewing the timeline, encourage students to discuss their impressions of Earhart's life and personality. Ask students to imagine the world of Amelia Earhart. What were some of the challenges that she faced as a pilot? How did her pioneering spirit change the role of women in society? You may wish to also read the interview with contemporary pilot Sylvia Barter.
Challenging the Space Frontier
Divide the class into three groups and direct them to read the articles about the Friendship 7, the Apollo 11, or the STS-7 online or printed out. As they read, students should choose one of the astronauts (John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, or Sally Ride) and keep a running list of facts of the events in their lives as well as contemporary world events.
After reviewing the articles, engage students in a discussion of the three space missions. Each group should present its findings to the rest of the class, describing the mission briefly, the astronaut involved, and the results of the mission. Have the class discuss how each mission changed the world in which we live. Draw conclusions on how each mission impacted society.
What were the challenges faced by these pioneers of flight? Were their challenges similar to one anther's? Did different challenges have different impacts on society? If they had not been pioneers, what kind of world would we live in today? You may want to chart this conversation on the Venn diagram graphic organizer (PDF).
100 Years of Flight Newspaper
Explain to students that now they are to assume the role of a newspaper reporter and they have the power to travel back in time. Tell them they need to choose one of the pilots or scientists you have discussed and write a news story. For example, students could cover the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, Amelia Earhart's flight across the Pacific Ocean, or Buzz Aldrin's walk on the moon. Students should be sure to include specific factual information about the event, such as the place, date, and circumstances. The news articles should also reflect the historical perspective of the time and how this event might have been viewed. Students should do additional research on the Internet on in the library as well as rereading the relevant articles. Print out step-by-step writing directions from the News Writing with Scholastic Editors activity or direct students to it on-line. For students writing about the Wright Brothers, they can also visit the Be a Reporter section of this activity and follow those directions. Encourage students to visit examples of previous Earhart Gazette news articles at any time during the writing process, as well as your hometown paper or major newspapers online. As students complete their pieces, confer with them and give them the go-ahead to put their writing into a final word-processing document for sharing and grading.
Take time for a Readers Circle in which students have an opportunity to share their news articles. Reflect on the range of personal challenges and the strength of character that come into play.
Supporting All Learners
International Reading Association (IRA) & National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Standards:
- 100 Years of Flight helps students meet the following standards Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA).
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world. (1)
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions (7).
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (libraries, databases, computer networks) to gather and synthesize information in order to create and communicate knowledge (8).
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities (11).
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language for learning, persuasion, and exchange of information (12).
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS):
100 Years of Flight meets the standards of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), which promote the development of students as good citizens in a culturally diverse, interdependent world. The content and activities of this project are especially appropriate for the themes of:
- Time, Continuity, and Change
Students focus on how the world has changed in order to gain perspective on the present and the future.
- Individual Development and Identity
Students learn to ask questions such as "What influences how people learn, perceive, and grow?"
- People, Places, and Environments
Students utilize technological advances to connect to the world beyond their personal locations. The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists learners as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world.
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions (Students study interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.)
- Science, Technology, and Society (Students study relationships among science, technology and society.)
National Science Education Standards:
- plan and conduct a simple investigation (Content Standard B)
- develop understanding of motions and forces (Content Standard B)
- develop understanding of science as a human endeavor (Content Standard G)
- use data to construct a reasonable explanation (Content Standard B)
- comunicate a problem, design, and solution (Content Standard E)
- develop understanding of science as a human endeavor (Content Standard G)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- use technology tools in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world
Invite students to make several calculations based on Earhart's final trip. Visit a Web site for a list of the stops along her route as well as a world map of the route. Calculate
* the percentage of Earhart's planned flight she actually completed
* the time differences between your location and stopover points in different time zones along Earhart's last route
* the mileage difference between Earhart's journey and other world-famous aviators such as Charles Lindbergh
Students participate in a paper airplane-building contest. Using the same materials, students compete for the farthest distance and the longest time in the air. Go to the National Airplane Contest for more details.
Students can choose to dramatize a specific episode from the life of Orville and Wilbur Wright or Amelia Earhart. They should write the scene, rehearse the play, and then present it to the class.
Write a story from the point of view of either Amelia Earhart or one of the Wright brothers. The story should describe the narrator's experiences as a pilot, including details from the web site articles. Focus student writing on character, plot, setting, and point of view.
Formal Assessment Ideas
Have students go through the Reporter activity from the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, or visit Writing with Writers for more ideas. Once they have researched and written their newspaper articles, print out the results for formal assessment.
Visit Writing with Writers for a news writing workshop where students can publish these reports online.
Use the writing rubric as a way to assess your students' writing skills. This rubric can also serve as a model for a modified version that might include your state's writing standards.