At Lin Learning Center, we like to explore scientific concepts through picture books such as Barreling Over Niagara Falls by Nancy Kelly Allen. Through beautiful illustrations the book told the fantastic adventure of the Queen of the Falls, Annie Edson Taylor, who in 1901 was the first daredevil to barrel down Niagara Falls and survive. This concept really captured the class’s interest and they began asking where Niagara Falls is, how high it is, and so forth.
To further explore this event and expand the children’s knowledge of different materials from previous project, gravity, impact, and air resistance, we decided to do an egg drop. Each child had to design a container using open-ended materials to prevent their egg from cracking after dropped from a two-story building.
What made Annie Edson Taylor successful?
While reading Ms. Allen’s story, the children pointed out that they key reason for her survival was a well-planned design for her barrel. Thus the children observed that they would need to design the containers for their eggs with as much care, so each of them got to work drawing their plans while the teachers discussed their ideas with them throughout the process.
For our research, we examined four other daredevils who attempted the fall and made predictions whether or not they would be successful. These daredevils used a kayak, a tin barrel, water scooter, and an air-filled container. Many of the children agreed that the kayak and water scooter would not be good choices for the task. Sure enough those two daredevils didn’t make it. When we discussed why Paul commented that the kayak and water scooter were open verses the tin barrel and air-filled container provided better protection since they were closed.
Gravity, Impact, and Air Resistance
The class also discussed gravity, impact, and air resistance. While studying gravity, the children gathered that it’s what makes things fall, though Jonathan added that gravity is an invisible force that makes things fall. To further demonstrate, one of the teachers dropped an egg with no protection from the two-story building, letting the children witness it smash. Spencer noted that this was because the height of the building is about 100 times the egg.
The teachers presented the children with four different containers to use for protecting their eggs made of flexible plastic, hard plastic, tin, and glass. Then we decided to drop each of the containers from ceiling-height to observe the result. The majority of the children hypothesized that the glass container would shatter, but the others wouldn’t be damaged. During the experiment, the glass container broke, the tin can dented, and the two plastic containers had no evidence of damage. Paul stated that hard materials break while flexible ones don’t when dropped from a great height.
While researching resistance, the children learned that a parachute can slowly lower objects down to the ground, thus we performed an experiment where we dropped two papers of the exact same size from the same height. We dropped one paper vertically and the other horizontally. Jonathan and Felice pointed out that when the paper is dropped horizontally more air is touching the paper thus creating more resistance. Some of the children use this information to build a container with a parachute to minimize the impact of their egg.
Following pictures are children working on their parachutes. They were testing out their designs, giving feedback to one another and supporting each others success.
Following pictures are children working on minimizing impact when the container hits the ground. Also some of children were thinking about creating a design that allows proper landing to guide where the impact should be when the container hits the ground.
Outcome Of The Egg Drop
After weeks of planning, building, and modifying containers, the teachers gave each of the nine children that participated two chances to perform the egg drop experiment. Some of the children focused on minimizing the impact using a parachute. Each child dropped their egg then we all went to the bottom to open the containers one by one. When we found an egg that survived, the children cheered and all of them were very happy with each other’s successes.
Following pictures are children getting ready and sharing their container design ready for egg drop. Children were allow to perform 2 trials for this challenge hoping that they learn from mistake and modify their design for another challenge.
Following pictures are children opening their containers to see whether their eggs have survived. Everyone were very supportive one another for their success as well as their failure.