Arkansas State Science Education Specialist

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					                 ASU GK12 Yr. 2 2009 – 2010 6E Lesson Plan
Author: Annabelle McKie                              Date:

Topic: Wing shapes

Title:Cool wings!                                    Grade Level: 6-9

Lesson Summary:
Students will learn that flying requires more than an airfoil and Bernoulli‟s Principle. Engineers must come
up with ways to make planes more efficient flying machines by modifying their wing shapes.

Arkansas Science Frameworks SLEs:
PS.6.6.4Recognize and give examples of different types of forces:
    gravitational forces
    magnetic forces
    friction

PS.6.6.5Understand why objects have weight

PS.6.7.5Explain how Newton‟s three laws of motion apply to real world situations (e.g., sports,

PS.6.6.8 Conduct investigations to demonstrate change in direction caused by force

P.6.PS.12 Compare and contrast the effects of forces on fluids:
       Archimedes’ principle
       Pascal’s principle
       Bernoulli’s principle

P.6.PS.1 Analyze how force affects motion:
       one-dimensional (linear)
       two-dimensional (projectile and rotational)

Main SLE covered in this activity:
PS.6.7.5Explain how Newton‟s three laws of motion apply to real world situations (e.g., sports,
P.6.PS.1 Analyze how force affects motion:
       one-dimensional (linear) two-dimensional (projectile and rotational)

Objectives: The student will learn:
1) About the different forces affecting a flying object
2) To calculate wing aspect ratios
3) To determine which wings with a given dimension will produce less drag

Essential Question:
Do wing shapes really matter on planes and birds?
Timeline: 50 minutes

Materials:Wing Ratio copies (see last sheet)
Dry Erase Board or Smartboard

Teacher Preparation: Prepare a PowerPoint presentation with information from the flowing website:
Make one copy per student of the wing ratio (see last sheet)

Student Prerequisites: Students should know about Forces, Newton‟s laws and Bernoulli‟s Principle..
They should also have experimented with various flying objects.

Engage: Ask about the different reasons why people fly (common answers for transportation to long
distance areas and for faster mail). Is there a reason we would want fast planes other than getting
somewhere faster? Show a video on Red Bull Air Race
(, sometimes it‟s for pure enjoyment. Have the
students focus on the shape of the wings (topic of the lesson).
Would there be an advantage to flying slowly? Show video on bush planes in Alaska
( Lack of roads and good places to land force planes
to slow down for landing. Again focus on wing shape.
Ask students if plane wings and bird wings have anything in common?
The shape of the wings will affect the speed of the bird. Show the following video:

Next, recap Bernoulli‟s principle using a windbag

Explore: Have the students answer the following question in their journal:
Prior knowledge: When a plane is flying at a constant speed in the air, what forces are acting on it?
This question should be re-answered at the end of the lesson right under “prior knowledge” and titled “new
knowledge”. This gives students the opportunity to visually see what they have learned.
Show the PowerPoint on forces acting on a plane based on the NASA website

Show students some different wing designs (for example http://www.dauntless- Either draw some
shapes on the board or include in your ppt.
Read the following from NASA Quest to the students (make sure they understand the term „area‟ = size of
a surface or number of squares needed to cover a surface)
When engineers design a new airplane, the size and shape of the wings are a very important issue. Wings
provide the majority of the lift for the airplane, but they also cause drag. Remember that drag is a force
that opposes the thrust force. Engineers are always trying to find ways to increase lift and reduce drag
caused by the wings.
In their efforts to increase lift and reduce drag, engineers use a mathematical formula called the “aspect
ratio”. The “aspect ratio” is simply a comparison between the length and width of the wing: length of the
wing divided by width if the wing = aspect ratio
Experiments have shown that a wing built with a higher aspect ratio tends to create less drag than a wing
built with a smaller aspect ratio; even when there are remains the same!

Write the aspect ratio equation on the board. Go over an example of what this means. Draw two „model‟
airplanes on the board.
Assign wing measurements to plane #1 as length = 6 units and width = 3 units
Assign wing measurements to plane #2 as length – 9 units and width = 2 units

Ask the students to calculate the area of each plane‟s wing (= 18 square units)

Ask students to calculate the aspect ratio of each model plane.
Plane #1= 6 divided by 3 = 2
Plane #2 = 9 divided by 2 = 4.5

Ask students which airplane will the engineers rate as having the best lift and the least amount of drag?
(Plane #2)

Distribute the „Aspect Ratio of Wings‟ sheet. Go over instructions and allow students to complete it.
Remind students they should not use outrageous length and width combinations for wing measurements,
such as 2 units long and 100 units wide.

Explain: Have students volunteer to answer the questions. Correct any mistakes made. Discuss any
revelations or new ideas made after the students completed the sheet.

Elaborate: Ask students why a real glider commonly has long slender wings. Confirm that a glider has no
engine (show video:; it cannot produce thrust while in
flight. It, therefore, requires a wing with an extremely high aspect ration. This helps it achieve the greatest
amount of lift with the least amount of drag.
Ask the students which birds look like a glider. The albatross is a good example of a bird with high aspect
ratio wings. As a matter of fact, just like the glider, albatrosses use very little thrust (they barely flap their
wings), they are very energy efficient flyers using the wind as thrust (video:
What bird would have a small aspect ratio? Forest birds, they need to move slower and have more
Summarize the lesson by asking students to fill out their new knowledge section in their journal and to
explain how the shape of a plane or bird‟s wing can affect flight (Answer: It affects the amount of lift and
drag on the plane or bird).

Extend: Using foam plates and wing templates, allows students to experiment with different wing shapes.
Lesson available at

Evaluate: Teacher observation
          Collect and grade „Aspect Ratio of Wings‟ sheet

Math:Formulas, calculating area and aspect ratio

Language Arts:

Social Studies:Discuss the history of flight. Read about the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart.


Parental Involvement:Students could create some planes with parents, teaching them what they learned
about the various wing shapes

Technology Connections:youtube, powerpoint




This lesson: __is original   _X_was adapted from _NASA and Civil Air Patrol__’s original lesson.
                            The Aspect Ration of Wings
Name: _________________________________________________________________________________

   1. Look at the following wings below, calculate the area and aspect ratio of each wing and place your
      answers in the table provided.
   2. Rank the wing with the least drag, number 1 and the greatest amount of drag, number 3.
                                                Wing A

                                                  20 units

                                                                        5 units

                                                  25 units

                                                                             4 units

                                                  50 units

                                                                                             2 units

      Wing             Length            Width               Area         Aspect Ratio     Drag Ranking



Part II:
   1. Create ad draw your own wings below. Give them each the same area of 200 square units.

                  Wing A                                               Wing B

   2. Label the length and width of each wing

   3. Calculate the aspect ratio for each wing and fill on the table below. Don‟t forget to include

   Wing             Length             Width              Area          Aspect Ratio      Drag Ranking



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