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Against the Wind

The California Condor is an expert at gliding, stretching out its nine-foot wingspan and combating the force of gravity by using rising pockets of air to climb in altitude. Take inspiration from this week’s featured creature with this simple and engaging way to help kids explore air resistance and gravity. Here’s how:

The Guide

  • Get inspiration from condors: Watch a video from the American Bird Conservancy of a California condor in flight. Notice together how the condor glides through the air. Wonder together how the condor stays in the air without flapping its wings.

  • Explore air resistance: Offer kids a piece of paper and wonder what would happen if dropped. Then, test it out and notice together how fast the paper falls and how it moves through the air. Welcome kids to try it again from a different height (on top of a stool, chair or couch). Wonder what would happen if you change the shape of the paper. How fast does the paper fall when it is folded? Crumpled into a ball?
    Invite kids to collect leaves, grass, sticks and other objects from nature and to make predictions as to which objects will float down slowly and which will drop quickly. Then, test it out!
  • Make a parachute: To make your own DIY parachute, use string to attach an egg carton (your basket) to a paper towel or light dish cloth (your chute). Invite kids to drop it and notice what happens. Continue testing out the parachute by dropping it from different heights. What happens if there is a “passenger” in the parachute basket? Add a nature treasure and observe together how the parachute drops with the extra weight. Experiment with adding passengers of different weights or test how many nature treasures can be added to the parachute.

Why is this activity great for kids?

It doesn't take much convincing to invite kids to drop objects as part of play! And experimenting with what happens when objects of different sizes, shapes and weights are dropped is also a super way to introduce kids to STEM concepts like gravity and air resistance, while also developing their curiosity, observation skills and ability to make predictions about how their world works.

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