Special Event: Do It Again: The Four Forces of Flight

Target Audience
  • Students
Hosting Center(s)
  • Langley Research Center
  • Langley Research Center
Subject Category
  • Physical Science
Unit Correlation
  • Special Programs
Grade Level
  • 04
  • 05
  • 06
  • 07
  • 08
Minimum Delivery Time
  • 045 min(s)
Maximum Connection Time
  • 060 min(s)

Event Focus

How do planes fly? What forces are at work creating the ability for a heavier than air craft to lift into the air and soar through the skies?



Investigate the four forces of flight (lift, drag, gravity and thrust) as Dr. Do-It performs demonstrations to explain these forces. After seeing the forces in action, learn how you can immerse your students in exploration of physics principles through activities found in the Museum in a Box toolkit. The science of flight includes the study of air pressure, conditions in the atmosphere, energy transfer, contrails and cloud formation and many other topics. The Museum in a Box lessons allow your students to experience these ideas in a meaningful context, and more easily understand these abstract physics concepts.


Instructional Objectives




Learners will begin by thinking about what it takes to be able to fly.


Learners will explore the history of flight, and how humans have attempted to achieve flight throughout history.



Learners will explain the four forces of flight.



Learners will look at other factors that are involved in flight, such as air pressure, Bernoulli’s principle, and conditions in the atmosphere.


Learners will evaluate their learning by performing their own experiments on the forces of flight and providing explanation in their own words.


Sequence of Events


Pre-Conference Activities


What forces are involved in flight? How do planes fly?

Have students work through the Glider Design activity in the MIB lesson, “Principles of Flight”, to investigate the four forces of flight.


Videoconference Activities


Gravity - The force that pulls objects toward Earth.

                We feel this as weight because gravity pulls on our mass.


Drag - The force that opposes, or slows, the motion of an object.


Lift - The force that works opposite of gravity.

         This force allows planes and other objects to rise into the air.


Thrust - A force moving forward, created by the engine, or some sort of propulsion.


Post-Conference Activities


Play the Forces of Flight game in the MIB “Principles of Flight” lesson, and explore additional lessons in the MIB toolkit. MIB Website.




NSES Science Content Standards: 5-8




                 MOTIONS AND FORCES

•     An object that is not being subjected to a force will continue to move at a constant speed and in a straight line. If more than one force acts on an object along a straight line, then the forces will reinforce or cancel one another, depending on their direction and magnitude. Unbalanced forces will cause changes in the speed or direction of an object's motion. The motion of a plane in flight is a balance of the forces of thrust, weight, and drag.

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Page Last Updated: July 18th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator