Wind Tunnel and Motion (SOL 1.2)

Students try out their flying machines in the wind tunnel

Students try out their flying machines in the wind tunnel

SOL 1.2: Students will investigate and understand that moving objects exhibit different kinds of motion.

Key concepts include:

a)   objects may have straight, circular, and back-and-forth motions;

c)   pushes or pulls can change the movement of an object.

This lesson plan is very inquiry based. There is no “right” or “wrong” way for the kids to create. They are learning how it based on their experimentation. Groups aren’t needed for this lesson as students will work individually and take turns because we only have one wind tunnel.

Materials: Styrofoam and paper plate, scissors, tape, paper, string, wind tunnel


  1. Teachers will show and demonstrate the use of the wind tunnel with their own creations as examples.
  2. Students will make their own “flying machines” using styrofoam cups and bowls or paper plates. They can decorate them any way they like.
  3. Students will line up and each take a turn put their flying machine in the wind tunnel. When finished, they will tell the teacher if it worked the way they thought it would.
  4. This is where inquiry comes in. When students put their flying machines in they will see the different ways they can fly. Some will fly out of the top, some will spin around, and some might be too heavy to fly. Students then can adjust their flying machines to do what they want. This activity ties in a multitude of Science SOLs just by exploring and experimenting and learning with their own machine. For example, if students decide to put paper on the machine, so the wind will catch it better, they are exploring surface area. If they cut pieces out to make it lighter, then they are exploring mass.
  5. Students continue flying their machines. Teachers will provide challenges, such as “can you make it spin?” as time permits.

Informal Assessment: Teachers will ask students about their machines and why they flew a certain way. They will ask students about their changes and if they worked the way they wanted them to work.

Teacher Reflection: Students loved this activity and were very creative in making their flying machines. They asked good questions when their modification did not produce their desired or anticipated result. Many students were surprised they could make their machines fly and spin so well. They were highly engaged and kept going back to the table to redesign their machine.

Parent Letter:Today we worked with a Wind Tunnel and had the kids make their own flying machines. The children could make the flying machines to fly any way they wanted. They could make them spin, or add weights to try and make them stay in the wind tunnel, or make them lighter so they could fly out. This lesson teaches a variety of SOLs and other abstract concepts such as surface area and air pressure. It is also project that can be easily replicated at home. All you need is a fan and a tube of plastic to make the wind tunnel. Then you can take any object either paper or styrofoam based and let it fly!