Saturday, May 28, 2011

Airplanes: The Basics

These days, Bean often sleeps with a plane he has built, or with one of his toy planes!

Bean is obsessed with airplanes, and he has been since flying to see his grandparents for Christmas.  He has asked endless questions and devoured books and videos on all things aviation.

I'm learning and coming up with things as we go - I have never known and/or understood so much about flight and airplanes as I do now!  So here are some of the activities and resources we've utilized in our following of Bean's lead.  I'll have a couple separate posts with some more specific activities, too. 

Building airplanes:
Bean started off building airplanes out of anything on hand - mostly Duplos but occasionally paper, pieces of masking tape, straws, pipe cleaners, even arranging coins on a table in a vaguely airplane shape!  I'll pictures of some of his creations at the end of the post (admittedly, mostly to brag!), but I think the first thing he asked about and became obsessed with incorporating was winglets.  He originally called them "stabby parts," and we had to do a little research to figure out what their real name was and what their purpose was!

One of Bean's earliest passenger jets, with winglets made of masking tape
He has built increasingly-complicated airplanes out of Duplos, he has tried to learn to make paper airplanes (his paper-folding skills need work).  He has learned the various parts and types of airplanes. He talks about APUs, winglets, outer starboard engines, pathways, fins, delta wings, seaplanes, racing planes, fighter jets, ailerons, airfoils, turbines, etc etc etc... and he incorporates these things into his building and into his play.

We've read a lot of books about airplanes, as that seems the best starting point with any topic!  We have so many more to read from our wonderful public library.  The Mega Book of Aircraft is the only one that springs immediately to mind, but I can certainly make a more extensive book list upon request!

Videos have been a really great resource, since Bean really wants to see planes in action, and he's also gotten to watch some basic science experiments done that he is too young for me to do with him (not because they're necessarily dangerous, but because I know things like a hair dryer and a ping pong ball would erupt into a power struggle over where the hair dryer is being aimed, when we need to shut it off, whether he's allowed to pull it out and plug it in without adult supervision, etc.  I'd like to continue with him not realizing there is even such a thing in the house for as long as possible!).

Anyhow, he has some definite favorite videos:
-Cleared for Takeoff - this is all about the experience of being a passenger on a passenger jet and some of the inner workings of an airport.  It's not technical about flight at all, but Bean has gotten some very cool pretend play out of it.  He sat down at a typewriter in a 1960's-styled home at a local museum and said he was flying a plane, then picked up the rotary phone next to the typewriter and said, "flight attendants, prepare for landing!"

-The Magic of Flight - Oh man...there is a lot in this one for Bean to get hooked on.  First off, there is the "Harrier Dump Jet."  The Beast once said the harrier looked like it was jumping, and Bean mistook "jump" for "dump" - the name has stuck.  At the beginning of the section on the harrier, Bean became obsessed with the music and would for awhile just start it over and over and over.  And, you know, the harrier itself is very cool!  As Bean likes to quote from the video, in which the harrier is compared to a bird, "the only thing it can't do is flap its wings."
    In any case, from this video, Bean has learned about how the pilots of the Blue Angels train, and has watched them be catapulted off of aircraft carriers (we still need to find better footage of this, because he really wants to understand what is happening and there is not good footage of the actual catapulting mechanism).  He has gotten a little taste of the kinds of maneuvers these planes are able to do, the rigorous training the pilots go through, and the ways the pilots' safety is ensured.

-Physical Science for Children: All About Flight and Flight: Physical Science in Action - I can't keep these two straight (Bean can, I'm sure).  In one of them, the hostess throws a cake off a balcony to demonstrate gravity, and the fact that there must be something special about airplanes since they weigh so much more than a cake and cakes obviously can't fly.  These are a little cheesy, but ultimately likeable and very informative.  They include experiments to help kids understand the four forces of flight (thrust, drag, lift, and gravity), as well as a look at the history of flight and various ways to fly and their benefits and drawbacks.  Some of the books we have also discuss the forces of flight, but seeing the experiments has been such a help for Bean in trying to understand them.

And, of course, YouTube has been valuable since Bean sometimes puts in requests for certain types of planes (especially Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s since he has little toy replicas of those) doing certain things (usually "driving and then taking off").

Some of Bean's fleet:
One of his earlier models.  I think this is a sea plane (hence no wheels, but "toons" - which is what he called pontoons).

Boeing 747 bread.  (He called them "Boeing forty-forty-sevens" until just last week!)  Bean was a consultant on this project.  The Beast was the engineer.

It's difficult to tell in this picture, but this plane is about two feet long.  Bean was desperately honing his skills at keeping large models from falling apart under their own weight (hence the square black block holding the wings together and the green square block holding the engines, which I assume he put back behind the wings because they were causing the wings to fall off otherwise.  This plane also has an APU ("auxiliary power unit" - an extra engine in the tail fin).
I believe this is the first of Bean's planes to have safety features and also his first to have a pilot!  If you can't spot the safety features off the bat, that is because they are rather unconventional.  He informed me that it had two sets of wheels so that if one (the tractor chassis it is sitting on in this picture) fell off, the others were still there.  This plane also has winglets.
The size of this one was impressive.  It's bending under its own weight!

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