Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Up, Up, and Away

Lisa Locklin
Santa Rosa District Schools


This lesson will allow the students to explore the relationship between velocity and the time traveled by an airplane. The students will use hands-on activities to calculate the average speed, and approximate average velocity.


The student knows that speed, velocity, and acceleration can be calculated, estimated, and defined.


- 8 Wooden airplanes ( gliders) with propellers
- 8 measuring tapes
- 8 stop watches
- Copies of the recording chart, one copy per student
- Textbooks
- Copies of the worksheet, one copy per student


1. Copy the worksheet needed for the first day of instruction, one copy per student. (To save paper, the worksheets can be copied 'duplex', i.e. front and back.)
2. Place the needed formulas on the board.
3. Secure an area outside to fly the planes, after reciving approval from your administration as to time, location and date of the activities.
4. Secure the stopwatches and measuring tapes and have the needed materials in the classroom.


Day 1
1. Discuss with the students the concepts of speed and velocity. Work examples on the board using the formulas, Speed = Distance /Time, Velocity = Distance/Time in a given direction.
2. Place a set of practice problems on the board and work through the problems with the students. Handout the worksheet, -Flying Physics-, and allow the students to work the remainder of the period on the worksheet. Tell the students to finish the assignment for homework.

Day 2
1. Review the concepts of speed and velocity with the students.
2. Break the students up into groups of four. Each group will contain a recorder, flyer, measurer, and timer.
3. Take the students outside to the assigned area and allow them to fly their airplanes.
4. Tell the students to make four flights with their planes recording the time and distance traveled for each flight.
5. Take the students back into the classroom and discuss how to find the speeds and velocities of the airplanes. Remind the students that the directions of each flight will be approximated and therefore, the velocities of the planes will also be approximated.
6. Tell the students to calculate the speed and velocity of their plane for each flight.
7. Escort the students to the classroom where they will work independantly to calculate the problems on their worksheets using the information gained from their flights.
8. Tell the students to average their speeds and velocities for the four flights.
9. Review the concepts of speed and velocity then allow the students to share their findings with the class.


The lesson will be assessed using the evaluation of the students' finished worksheets and the evaluation of the students' data charts.


This lesson could be used to discuss forces that may change the speed and velocity of the plane. This could include friction, wind forces, rolling forces, G forces, and gravitational forces.

Attached Files

The worksheet for day one and the data sheet for the lab activity.     File Extension: pdf

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