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Sites to See: Aviation Transportation

Looking for history, math, and science activities and resources for your next transportation or aviation unit? Look no farther! Included: A dozen sites for both teachers and students.

From interactive, student-driven demonstrations to detailed timelines to facts on the physics of flying and more, these fantastic flight sites have just what you're looking for!

How Airplanes Work
Students in grades 5 and up will enjoy this easy-to-understand explanation of how airplanes work from the people at How Stuff Works. Twenty-two pages -- each on one topic, including Weight and Lift, Airplane Sensors, Drag, and Wings.-- contain simple descriptions and, often, illustrations as well. Use this resource for science fair research or as an activity to begin a unit on flight. The site also includes articles on various types of airplane engines. Be sure to introduce students to the site first and alert them to the ads and numerous "shopping" links to avoid.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Check out the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum's three online exhibits on aviation: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age, How Things Fly, and Black Wings. Each of those topics contains stories, interactive experiments, classroom activities, lesson plans, and other resources. For example, you might begin your study of the Wright Brothers and the first flight at Kitty Hawk by inviting students in grades 4 and up to read the illustrated and interactive sections on the Wright's genealogy, their struggle to build a working airplane, and the events that occurred after their first successful flight. Don't miss the video of an electronic field trip when students at one school "visited" the exhibit without ever leaving home! The How Things Fly -- with simple explanations for common questions -- is a good place to start a unit on aviation.

This site, geared to the upper elementary and middle school classroom, is filled with math and aviation activities. Teachers can sign up their classes for prizes and other materials, but it's not necessary. Nine separate themes -- including calculating how fast a plane will land or how many people you can put on board an aircraft -- each contain a number of classroom activities. In Plane Capacity, for example, students can work through an interactive exercise in which they must calculate what the maximum weight of the last person boarding can be. An interview with a NASA mechanical engineer, a group activity, NCTM standards, and much more accompany this and all other units. PlaneMath is created with the cooperation of NASA, so don't miss it!

Boeing's Wonder of Flight
Boeing's Wonder of Flight site is an elegant, interactive resource for any study of aviation in grades 4 and up. The site is divided into two sections. In How Do things Fly, students can roll the mouse over pictures of aviation parts and flying vehicles. When they click an area of the page, a new window pops up, containing a description of the object and how it works. The Century of Discovery section is even more robust, with dozens of excellent links for historical figures, famous planes, and other artifacts from aviation history. The timeline at the bottom of page is particularly detailed and would be good for a whole group presentation. Don't miss the reading lists for ages 6 and up.

The National Paper Airplane Project
Jumpstart any aviation discussion by joining this exciting project, which provides dozens of resources for using paper airplanes in the classroom. Details on procedures and materials are included, as are instructions for creating a paper airplane contest at your school. A short description of paper airplanes and how they fly also is provided, but most students will benefit more from reading more detailed explanations at some of the other sites mentioned in this article. Don't miss this site's links, books, and other resources for further information on paper airplanes.


Learn about more great sites for students, parents, and educators by visiting Education World's Site Reviews Archives.


Article by Hazel Jobe
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World


Links Updated 05/21/2009