The idea of this unit is to fully integrate the physics of flight with literature, history, and multiculturalism. This unit is designed to teach fourth and fifth graders of diverse backgrounds about the wonders and history of flight by studying and taking into consideration the same factors that Orville and Wilbur Wright had to consider when they were first building their airplane. The students will be involved with many hands-on explorations of the four basic concepts of flight (weight, lift, thrust, and drag). (See figure i)
Through the unit,
The Physics of Flight
, students will take a more personalized look at how the advent of flying changed and inspired people. The students will be reading the novel
by Laurence Yep which follows a young Chinese boy, Moonshadow, as he travels from China to San Francisco to live and work with his father. The boy's father, Windrider has an obsession with flight which leads to an eventual correspondence with Orville and Wilbur Wright. This book gives a very real account of being an immigrant in a country that does not necessarily welcome that presence, added to that, the skepticism that surrounds the boy and his father regarding their dreams of eventually flying. Students will be learning about this mass immigration of Chinese into California at the turn of the century as well as about Chinese culture. They will also be grappling with the concepts of immigration, a sense of belonging, and then relating this to their own lives.
The excitement of flying, though not as novel today as compared to the early 1900's, is not lost on any child. This natural enthusiasm to learn about the question, "How do airplanes fly?" that undoubtedly all children have asked at one point or another, will motivate students throughout the unit. By making this a fully interdisciplinary unit, there should be a way for all types of learners to feel connected to and inspired by the content of the unit.