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Which parachute will be the best? A lesson about variables in an experiment.

Updated on March 5, 2013
Students will make parachutes out of different materials to see which one will be the most effective
Students will make parachutes out of different materials to see which one will be the most effective
Make sure students are engaged and that they accurately record their findings
Make sure students are engaged and that they accurately record their findings

If you are looking for a great lesson to help students understand what a variable is, this lesson will help you display what variables are. When explaining to children that while doing an experiment it is vital to notice and to thing about varying circumstances or conditions. Explain to them that a variable can be a change or a difference in anything. As scientist we have to be able to identify variables so that we can come to accurate conclusions when we test a hypothesis and or search for answers to our questions. To open the lesson have them brainstorm for different examples of variables.


Plant growing in different soils, different amounts of a soil, kept in different environments,

Learning Objective: Experiment with different types of paper or materials like plastic, or foil to see which creates the best parachute.

Materials: Construction paper, copy paper, and magazine paper, paper towel measuring tape( if they are measuring distance) and stop watches (if they decide to measure time.


1. Review the experimental design briefly with students. Discuss what the main steps in a scientific investigation are and make a list on the board as you discuss with class. Students should know first you should have a testable question (what it is you are wondering about), then a hypothesis (which is your prediction or guess about your question)? Next students should briefly talk about procedures and data collection. Introduce the term variable; define it as any factor, trait, or condition that can exist in differing amounts or types.

Instructional Input:

Inform students that today we will make parachutes (or paper airplanes) out of different types of paper. Ask them: “so what would are variable be? What would a good question be for this experiment”? (Which parachute will go the farthest? Or Which will take the least amount of time to hit the floor?)

2. Instruct students to write down your hypothesis (“I predict that…”) Have students create a graphic organizer where they list the different types of paper used to make the parachutes. As students test their parachutes have them write the distance the parachute flew and or how long it took to fall, by measuring the distance and or time.

Make sure to instruct students to be organized and to work well together in groups. While they all should have their journals, they should have different jobs so that the experiment will go well. There needs to be a recorder, the actual parachute droppers, and timers. You might think of something else important especially if you have large groups. And of course the teacher should be monitoring and facilitating the learning process.

Closure: Which paper made the parachute that flew the farthest or took the shortest time fall?

Facilitating Questions: So what is a variable? What was our variable(s) today? What could have been some other variables? Optional: you might choose to briefly discuss different types of variables-dependent, independent, and controlled

Evaluation-Journal Answers and graphic organizer


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