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The focus for students in this age group is on the personal qualities shared by successful pilots and scientists, such as the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, and the space shuttle astronauts. 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
Begin the conversation by asking students what they know about airplanes, pilots, and flying. To stimulate previous knowledge, students should first create a brainstorming web or list, using "flight" as the beginning word. Ask students, "What other words occur to you when you hear the word 'flight?'" Most likely they will mention birds, the parts of a plane, air, etc.. You can create a class web together of the students' ideas as well. Then ask students, "Can people fly? How?"
The Wright Brothers
The class should begin by reading Meet the Wright Brothers [teacher.scholastic.com]and Inventing the Plane [teacher.scholastic.com]. You can direct students to the articles online, have printouts available, or conduct a read-aloud. As the students are reading or listening, 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.
Next, direct students to the Build a Plane [teacher.scholastic.com] activity. If you don't have enough computers for every student, students can pair up to play. Allow students to guess by trial and error, rather than reading the Physics facts and the Wright brothers facts.
Once all students have completed the game, regroup to discuss what they have learned. Review each choice and why it worked or didn't. What theories do the students have about why they worked? As you discuss each choice, read the Wright brothers fact aloud. 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 [teacher.scholastic.com] of Amelia Earhart's life. Ask students as they read to keep a running list again of facts or qualities that made Amelia a successful pilot in a time when most pilots were men.
After reviewing the timeline, encourage students to discuss their impressions of Earhart's life and personality. What kinds of problems did she overcome? How would her story be different today? 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 [teacher.scholastic.com], the Apollo 11 [teacher.scholastic.com], or the STS-7 [teacher.scholastic.com] 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 or qualities that made that astronaut successful.
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 and the astronaut involved. In general, what are the qualities of a good astronaut? How many of your students think they would make a good astronaut?
What personality qualities or skills do the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart, and the space shuttle astronauts share? What makes them different? You may want to chart this conversation on a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles.
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 about an event in that person's life in which he or she overcame a challenge. 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 subject's personality and how it helped him or her overcome obstacles. Print out step-by-step writing directions from the News Writing with Scholastic Editors [teacher.scholastic.com] activity or direct students to it on-line. For students writing about the Wright Brothers, they can also visit the Be a Reporter [teacher.scholastic.com] 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. Using the newspaper research and papers, create a complete newspaper or a book on the history of flight with different articles highlighting different pioneers.
Physics/Science (Grades 3-5)
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 [teacher.scholastic.com] for more details.
Drama (Grades 4-5)
Students can choose to dramatize a specific episode from the life of Orville and Wilbur Wright or Amelia Earhart, rehearse the play, and then present it to the class.
Language Arts (Grade 3-5)
Students write a poem with the theme of "flight." The poem should include details and descriptions of what it feels like to fly, either from a human perspective or a bird's perspective. They can publish this poem online with Writing with Writers: Poetry.
- What kind of person makes a good pilot? What qualities and skills does a pilot need? Is the answer different today than in the Wright brothers' time? In Amerlia Earhart's time?
- What kind of person makes a successful inventor or scientist? What qualities and skills does an inventor need?
- What was the world like before airplanes?
- What would the world be like today without airplanes or space shuttles?
- How do you think airplanes fly?
- Why do you think we still celebrate the Wright brothers today?
- In the 1920's why was it harder for a woman like Amelia Earhart to become a pilot than a man?
- What do you think really happened to Amelia Earhart?
- Would you go to space on a space shuttle if you had the chance? Why or why not?
- If you were president of the United States, would you want to send the first space shuttle to Mars? Why or why not?
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 [teacher.scholastic.com] for a news writing workshop where students can publish these reports online.
Use the writing rubric [teacher.scholastic.com] 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.