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Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design
Students Working Together : Compare Drops : Parachute Collections
Student Interim Reports : Student Final Reports
 
MOVIE 1:   1 minute 58 seconds
Parachute Collections

Teachers have little time for individual diagnosis and instruction -- they have to get good at recognizing patterns of behavior and shape their teaching responses to a handful of patterns rather than a gradebook full of students. This page's movie shows an 8th-grade class in Atlanta doing their first parachute drops -- they were finishing the second day of work. Look for trends in the way the teams' chutes behave.

Most of these parachutes are collapsing in mid-flight -- they are failing to meet one of three parachute Key Criteria -- a canopy should inflate quickly and remain fully inflated through its entire descent. While it is not intuitive, one approach to achieving full inflation is to increase the load (few students elect to do this). The larger the canopy, the more airflow is required to keep it from becoming partially under-inflated. Such chutes are more stable when there is a cross-wind.

What would you do if you had a class that basically was proposing the same design, with only minor variations? The next day, the teacher had each team investigate a different issue: (1) Ancient History - report on first parachute designs; (2) Recent History - team members interviewed other teams about designs; (3) Indoor/Outdoor Drops - reported on how chutes dropped outside might behave differently than indoors; (4) Make Invisible Visible 1- draw flight path of different chute drops; and (5) Make Invisible Visible 2 - draw what the airflow might be as a parachute descends.

After the lesson, teams in this class produced much more varied designs -- this was the teacher's main goal of the activity. Students' explanations for their design decisions were also noted as more detailed afterwards.

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