Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Back Yard Science: Maple Seed Helicopters

The weather here is gorgeous. We brushed some of our planting mess off the table and settled on the deck for school this morning. At science time, we realized we're caught up on the butterfly study and our garden won't be planted until next week, so I got out the science kit we'd put on hold: Lights, Colors, Optics. Kindergarten gent and I looked at it. Hmm. On this sunny morning we just couldn't seem to muster up much enthusiasm for science.

A maple seed helicopter came spinning down from the tree in our wonderful neighbor's yard. "Hey!" I said, "Wanna get out the microscope and look at the helicopters?"

Gent's face brightened. Science enthusiam returned. He and his brothers are fascinated by the helicopters that come spinning down from our neighbor's tree every time the wind blows. We spent the next half hour drawing helicopters, taking them apart and looking at them in the microscope, and standing on a chair to figure out what the advantage of spinning seeds might be by dropping seeds with the tails torn off, then dropping intact helicopters. "It makes the seeds go farther!" fine young gent later dictated for me to write in his nature notebook.

The crowning moment, for me at least, was about half an hour later when kindergarten gent pulled up two chairs and started repeating the seed-dropping experiment with his four-year-old brother. Priceless.

Learn more!

The Journal of Maple Seed Science. From the site: "We hope you will show us connections between science, technology, design and society that the simple elegance of a whirling maple seed can inspire."

Aeronautics: Maple Seed Helicopters. Make autorotating helicopters from paper. Includes an explanation about maple seeds and autorotation.

Blowing in the Wind. An article about seeds and fruits dispersed by the wind.

Maple Tree Identification. Identify major species native to North America. Includes drawings of leaves, bark and seeds.

Origami Maple Seed. Entitled "Exploring Science and Design With a Maple Seed," this site offers more than an origami pattern-- there are also discussions of physics, biology, aerodynamics and more related to maple seeds.

Whirling Wonders. Create your own whirling helicopter with paper. From the Science Museum of Minnesota.

No comments: