This highly engaging engineering and design project (GOOGLE and PDF versions) allows students to gain a greater understanding of how a parachute works to slow down an object.
This project has many options offered to teachers depending on the number of periods they wish to assign. It can be done in one period, or extended to include background information on parachutes and why they work (active reading assignment), paperclip and falling rate investigation, student documentation of their designs, and a formative assessment where they critique their final design. An option on how to include a math component is also included plus two ideas for students who are interested in a competition.
Students design, construct, and test their design for a parachute (using simple materials). Their parachutist is represented by a winter holiday character. Students can draw their character or use one of the characters included in the teacher notes. After initial testing, students have the chance to redesign their parachute to make it more effective.
A written formative assessment is included which allows for students to critique their design and offer ideas for improvements.
The science and engineering practices below are incorporated in this investigation:
Constructing explanations and designing solutions.
Developing and using models.
The cross cutting practices below are incorporated in this investigation:
System and system models
This project supports the NGSS engineering standards MS ETS1-2 MS ETS1-4 and the standard 5-PS2-1
Included in this resource:
Teacher slides (17 slides)
Detailed teacher notes including answers to active reading assignment (3 pages)
Printable student worksheets with activity instructions (5 pages)
Suggested materials needed for students (not all of these are necessary):
Newspaper, tissue paper sheets, different types and sizes of plastic garbage bags, string, thread, straws, BBQ wooden sticks, tape.
Email any questions you have with subject line “Questions on holiday parachuting project” to us at and we’ll be happy to answer them
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