Air Resistance: Resistance ... by Air

Contributor: Kaitlyn Zimmerman. Lesson ID: 12677

If you have ever dropped something (and who hasn't?), you've probably thought more about the broken pieces than the fact that air resistance was at work! You'll work with it now to see how it works!



learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Imagine that you have a tennis ball and a tightly-crumpled-up piece of paper. Your job is to drop them from the same height and see which one hits the ground first.

  • Which do you think will fall to the ground faster?

The next big question is, "Why?"

  • Have you ever watched someone go skydiving, even in a movie or a short video?

If so, you may have noticed that the person skydiving is falling extremely fast — until the parachute is deployed. Once the parachute opens up, the skydiver begins to slow down as they finish their entry back onto the earth’s surface.

sky diver

  • Have you ever wondered how that happens?
  • How does a skydiver slow down when the parachute is opened, instead of falling at the same speed?

Before going farther, if you missed or would like to review the first lesson in our Flight series, go to the Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

This same concept applies to the idea of which will fall to the ground faster: the tennis ball or the tightly-crumpled-up piece of paper. Feeling that the tennis ball is heavier, you may have said that the tennis ball would hit the ground first.

If you try it out, once you drop them, you'll find that they both hit the ground at the same time.

  • How is that possible?

Let’s join Flo to see if she can help answer these questions!

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Air resistance! That is what causes a skydiver to slow down when a parachute is deployed!

As the spinners began to fall, the spinner with the smaller amount of air resistance pushing on it fell faster than the spinner that had a greater amount of air resistance pushing on it. You may have noticed that air resistance increases when the surface area of an object also increases.

When air has a larger surface area to push up against, the air resistance will be greater on that object than on an object that has a smaller surface area for air to push on.

Once you understand that, continue on to the Got It? section to check up on what you've learned so far.

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