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Grade 5: Slowing it Down in Science

What’s the opposite of speed? It’s drag, according to scientists in Andy Dodge’s class, who kicked off a unit on flight by studying how to slow an object down. 
“In order to understand speed, they have to understand how to reduce drag,” explained Mr. Dodge. “To do that, the best way is to have them first maximize drag so they know techniques to minimize it later during the flight lesson when they will make paper airplanes.” 

Students were given three items -- sheets of copy paper, scissors and tape -- to design a drag device. Similar to a parachute, a drag device is meant to fall slowly so it hangs in the air as long as possible. While they could modify the piece of paper, they could neither add to, nor subtract from its total mass.

Austin Zeckser believed his idea was a winner. His sheet of paper had the edges folded up but the design needed something more. “When I drop the sheet, it tips from side to side. I have to cut a hole in the middle so air can pass through and make it fall more level.”

To test their designs, students stood on the second floor of the Gates Middle School Building where they “dead dropped” their drag devices from eye level as a partner below timed the fall to the 1/100th of a second. They could then go back and modify their designs to create more drag.

Who had the best time in fifth grade? It was Jordan Fisk at 8.29 seconds. In fact, Jordan set an all-time school record! What a drag!


Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.