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 having a tennis ball and tightly crumpled-up paper. You must drop them from the same height and see which 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.

skydiver with a parachute

  • 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?

This same concept applies to which falling object will reach the ground faster: the tennis ball or 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, you'll find they both hit the ground simultaneously once you drop them.

  • How is that possible?

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 less air resistance pushing on it fell faster than the spinner with more air resistance pushing on it. You may have noticed that air resistance increases when the surface area of an object also increases.

When the 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 to the Got It? section to check up on what you've learned so far.

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