Gravity Lesson


Leticia Rodriguez

Ferdinand W. Peck


3826 W. 58th Street




(773) 535-2450



This lesson is designed for students in fifth grade, although this lesson can be modified to suit kindergarten through grade 12; even a college level physics course.  This lesson can be done within a 60-minute period.

To find out if mass affects the drops of the student-made model parachutes and helicopters.

This lesson incorporates the following Chicago Academic Standards & Frameworks (Science K-6):  Conduct experiments and observations and explain what was discovered.   Describe conditions that influence change during an investigation.  Ask questions and formulate hypotheses.  Select and use instruments to collect, organize and present data related to a scientific investigation- timer, stopwatches.  Gather data from investigation by applying a variety of scientific skills-measurement and recording methods.  Use data based on observations from guided experiments to construct reasonable and accurate explanations.  Interpret data and evaluate the accuracy of the outcomes.  Compare observations of individual and group results.  Use appropriate vocabulary to describe scientific phenomena and instrumentation.  Construct simple models that illustrate concepts-a helicopter, a parachute.  Compare and contrast an action and reaction in the behavior of objects.     

This lesson incorporates the following NCTM- Principles and Standards for School Mathematics:  Instructional programs from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 should be able to - Problem Solve; Show Reasoning and Proof; Communicate their thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers and others; Create and use representations to organize and record data-graphs, charts, tables, etc.


Participation Awards - Super Scientists Awards - Hershey Kisses Treats



Paper clips




Notebook paper







paper clips

model directions



model directions


Helicopter Model Directions

        Fold and cut one sheet of paper in half lengthwise.

        Take one of the halves and fold it in half lengthwise.

        Use a ruler to draw a triangle on one edge of the paper.

The base of the triangle will be 1 in. (3 cm) long and one side will be between the 4-in. and 6-in.(9 cm and 14 cm) marks on the ruler.  See the diagram:

        Cut out the triangle.  Cut through both layers of the paper.

        Open the paper and cut up the center fold to the point indicated on the diagram.  This forms the wings.

        Fold the tabs toward the center and attach a paper clip to the bottom.

        Fold the wings in opposite directions.

        Hold the helicopter above your head and drop it.  


Parachute Model Directions

          Cut a 22 in. (56 cm) by 22 in.(56 cm) square from a newspaper.

        Cut 4 separate strings about 20 in (50 cm) long.

        Tie a string to each corner of the newspaper square.

        Tie the 4 ends of the strings together in a knot.  Be sure the strings are all the same length.

        Use a string about 4 in. (10 cm) long to attach the washer to the knot in the parachute strings.


Initiate Motivation: We will begin this lesson by doing the experiments first.  The experiments will be done in groups.  Four people will be in each group.  Within each group there will be:  A Retriever; A Recorder; Recorder; A Releaser; A Timer.                 

Helicopter Activity:  1. Create a helicopter within each group.  2.  Pass out helicopter materials to each group.  3. Assign each group to a specific location.  4. Drop helicopters from an agreed height and record time of landing in seconds on notebook paper.  5. Repeat Step 4 with 1 paper clip, 5 paper clips, and 10 paper clips.  

Parachute Activity:  1. Create a parachute within each group.   2. Pass out parachute materials to each group.  3. Assign each group to a specific location.  4. Drop parachutes from  an agreed height and record time of landing in seconds on notebook paper.  5. Repeat Step 4 with 1 paper clip, 5 paper clips, and 10 paper clips.

Culminating Activity:  1. After students finish their activity and record their data within their groups, all groups should come together as a whole class.  2. Each group should write their data on the board (time in seconds for 1 clip, 5 clips, and 10 clips).  Teacher initiates student discussion with the following questions:  What happens to the helicopter/parachute as it falls?  Why do you think the helicopter/parachute falls to the ground?  What was the difference between the helicopter/parachute when it did not have any paper clips and when it had 1 paper clip?  What was the difference between 1 paper clip and 5 paper clips?  What was the difference between 5 paper clips and 10 paper clips?  How do the paper clips affect the landing of the helicopter/parachute?  How would you have designed your helicopter/parachute to make it more effective?  What do you think your design would accomplish that my helicopter/parachute did not accomplish?  Would the new ideas you discovered within your groups change with your new model helicopter/parachute?  

Performance Assessment

The students should be able to perform the criteria set out in the objectives within their groups while creating their model helicopters and parachutes.  In addition, students should be able to orally express their findings during the Culminating Activity on an individual basis due to their experience they had within their groups. 



The "Culminating Activity" is the conclusion of this lesson. Pass out Awards accordingly within each group and Hershey Kisses to all students for a job well done.


Board of Education of the city of Chicago, Chicago Academic Standards & Frameworks.  United States of America

NCTM, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.

Vancleave, Janice, Physics For All Kids.  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  New York.  1991 (graphics)