Resources needed:

  • Laptops or computers
  • Books about Sir Isaac Newton
  • Paper
  • Feather
  • Tissue paper
  • Plastic bags
  • Cotton
  • Scissors
  • Small figure/toy


  1. Ask the class to use the laptops/books research Sir Isaac Newton. What was he famous for? What did he discover? What were some of his other ideas?
  2. Make a list of the top ten facts about Isaac Newton on the board. Were there any surprises? Who already knew something about him?
  3. Now drop a feather from a reasonable height. Repeat with a small piece of tissue paper scrunched into a tiny ball. Ask the children what they noticed about the rate at which they both fall.

Teaching point: Discuss all the factors which can influence how fast something falls. Encourage children to think about things which can slow the rate of fall, leading to discussion on air resistance. Where is air resistance useful/not useful? What sort of things need to be streamlined in order to overcome the effect of air resistance?

  1. Give each small group some different materials and help them make parachutes to slow the rate at which a small toy falls. Get them to think about the design of the parachutes, including the size, shape and how they will attach the cotton threads to the parachute and the figure.
  2. Ask for suggestions as to how the children can test the parachutes in a fair way. Will they need a stopwatch? Where is the best (and safest) place to drop them? Is it better to drop them from a high place or lower down? Why?


Further Activities:

Make paper helicopters with plain paper and a paperclip weight. Where would the children see something like this outside? What kind of tree uses this device? What sort of factors would affect the rate of fall of the helicopter?

Ask the children to make flash cards for some of the new technical words they have encountered. They could either illustrate them or write an explanation on the back. Use the flash cards as part of your revision work.

Ask the children to design a streamlined paper aeroplane. Have a competition to see whose can travel the furthest.


Curriculum Areas covered:

During years 5 and 6, pupils should be taught to use the following practical scientific methods, processes and skills through the teaching of the programme of study content:

  • planning different types of scientific enquiries to answer questions, including recognising and controlling variables where necessary
  • taking measurements, using a range of scientific equipment, with increasing accuracy and precision, taking repeat readings when appropriate
  • recording data and results of increasing complexity using scientific diagrams and labels, classification keys, tables, scatter graphs, bar and line graphs
  • using test results to make predictions to set up further comparative and fair tests
  • reporting and presenting findings from enquiries, including conclusions, causal relationships and explanations of and degree of trust in results, in oral and written forms such as displays and other presentations
  • identifying scientific evidence that has been used to support or refute ideas or arguments.

They should use and develop keys and other information records to identify, classify and describe living things and materials, and identify patterns that might be found in the natural environment.

(Y5) Pupils should be taught to:

  • identify the effects of air resistance, water resistance and friction, that act between moving surfaces