[KIDS] Vocabulary Word of the Week: Air Resistance

Air resistance is the force that slows down objects that move through the air. Air resistance is the reason that feathers seem to float to the ground, instead of falling straight down when they are dropped.  In order to test for air resistance, we can drop a sheet of paper, a crumbled piece of paper, and other objects, like a pea, grain of rice, or nut, from a high place. Measure the time it takes for these objects to fall and see which one takes the longest to land, this is the object with the most air resistance.

How fast does it fall?

Materials:

  1. 2 sheets of paper

  2. Other objects to test (ie. lego brick, pea, playing card, nut)

  3. Paper and pencil

  4. Stopwatch

Method:

  1. Take one piece of paper and crumble it, do not change anything about the other sheet. Select the other objects you want to test. They should all be around the same weight. Guess which object will fall the fastest and which will fall the slowest. Make a list of your materials and order them from slowest to fastest, this is your hypothesis. Discuss why you chose this order.

  2. Create a table that includes your materials and the time it will take for them to fall. A few trials should be conducted, so make sure there’s a few rows for the time! Click here for a sample table: Air Resistance

  3. Bring the materials to a place where you can drop your objects for about 10-20 feet, like a second story window, stair well, or balcony.

  4. Have one person stand at the highest spot and one person at ground level with the table and stopwatch.

  5. Count to three aloud and drop one object at a time. Make sure to start the stopwatch as soon as the object is dropped and to stop it immediately after the object hits the ground.

  6. Fill in your table as the experiment is conducted. Once all of the objects have been dropped, bring them back to the person at the high point to drop again. Conduct one or two more trials.

  7. Now, compare how long it took each object to fall. Put your list in order from least to greatest time. The objects that took the greatest time have a higher air resistance than the objects that took less time to fall.

  8. Look back at the hypothesis; how do the results compare with what you thought in the beginning? If your hypothesis did not agree, that’s okay, the important part was learning about different air resistances!

Why did this happen?

Objects with a smaller mass are going to be slower than objects with a higher mass. With the piece of regular paper and the crumbled one, they have the same mass, yet the the crumbled one fell faster. This is because the regular piece of paper has a larger surface area allowing there to be more air resistance!

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