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eaplai's avatar

How to explaining wind resistance to a child.

Asked by eaplai (11points) May 20th, 2010

I was saying to my nephew heaver object don’t fall faster. He then said feathers fall slower, I went to explain that’s because of wind resistance, he then said so when is it if I dropped a lead sheet it would still fall fast.

What’s the best way to explain this to a child so it’s clear for them to understand?

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24 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

With a sheet of newspaper vs. a wadded-up piece of newspaper of the same size.

You can also demonstrate with the sheet of paper being dropped “on its end” vs. “on its face”.

Primobabe's avatar

Air is a liquid. It’s a very sparse liquid that we can’t see, but it behaves just like water. Air flows from high pressure to low pressure—just as water flows downhill—which is why there’s wind. If you wave a fan to make a breeze, it’s just like moving your hand in a bathtub to make ripples. If you drop a lead sheet into a bathtub, it’ll sink immediately, but feathers are more buoyant will float around and take a while to sink. The same thing happens when you toss feathers or lead into the air.

I hope that helps!

marinelife's avatar

It is air resistance, not wind resistance. Here is a way to explain it to a child with experiments they can do.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Take them for a ride in the car. have them stick their hand out the window at 5mph, then again at 25 mph. The hand didn’t change, the air didn’t change, but the push on the hand did.

whitenoise's avatar

Have him or her go through a tub full of water with a close fist and with an open hand. The difference in resistance will be understandably linkeable to the resistance of air.
Air is ‘thin water’

Inflate a balloon to show that air is actually something that can be touched and felt.

Tomfafa's avatar

For kids… always answer a question with a question.

Ponderer983's avatar

Should you really be teaching kids anything is you can’t even use proper grammar?

Tomfafa's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I’m not sure… I’m jewish. That’s what we do. Stimulates the imagination I guess.
@Ponderer983 That’s rood!

Ponderer983's avatar

@Tomfafa…but true! Not rude, just calling it like I read it!

warka1's avatar

simply tell em is type of friction, like ice skating, or kind tie a rope on em waist and tell him to run and then pull rope back; then simply tell em the force pulling u back is the firction; hence wind resistence

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mattbrowne's avatar

Demonstrate how two magnets repel each other. The same force is at work between the feather and the air. Electrons repel each other as well, but without wind (as shown in Forrest Gump) eventually gravity wins.

stratman37's avatar

You can also do the demo where you take a thin wooden skewer and lay it on the edge of the table, about a third of it sticking out off the table.

Tell the child to whack down the end that’s hanging off the table and the skewer goes flying – NO air resistance.

Then cover the part of the skewer that is ON the table with a sheet of paper. Repeat whackage. The skewer should break – air resistance.

They used to do this with a ruler, but most notebook paper was a lot thicker back then!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@mattbrowne you can’t seriously propose that “the same force” is at work between the feather and the air as magnetism between two like poles. Were you drunk when you wrote that, or just kidding?

Tomfafa's avatar

@Ponderer983 There must be some literary network somewhere on the net… I don’t think this is it. I used to do it… now I prefer leather clubs.
@CyanoticWasp I’m not sure I can define ‘resistance’... but I bet I’ll know it when I feel it!

Resistance is thought transformed into feeling. Change the thought that creates the resistance, and there is no more resistance.Robert Conklin

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Tomfafa… do you feel resistance?

roundsquare's avatar

First, show them that air is “something.” Thats a hard concept for kids. In 6th grade, we learned this by putting some paper in the bottom of a cup of water (tight so it won’t fall out) and putting it upside down in a bowl of water (fully submerged). The paper stays dry. Why? There was air which kept the water from coming all the way in.

Now get some rocks. Big ones and small ones. Big ones are harder to move, small ones are easier to move. Why? Because they are heavy. (Technically mass and weight are different… but I’d leave that out for now).

Okay, so air is there, but its really light. So it must be easy to move right? But still, there’s a lot of it. So you need to push it out of the way. Which air do you push out of the way? Have the kid think. Get something you can drop (a ball maybe) and say “if I drop this, which air will move? The air on the other side of the room? No, we don’t need to push that. The air above the ball? Nope. Ahh, the air below the ball.” So the bigger the ball, the more air you need to move.

Since air pushes back, the feather can’t do as well in pushing it out of the way.

Modify to suit the kid and ask a lot of questions along the way. Lead him to the answer.

mattbrowne's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – I’m not kidding. And sober ;-)

Believe me, it’s the same force, called the electromagnetic force. Why do you think our planet doesn’t suck you down right into the center of the Earth? Do you really think your feet or shoes do touch the ground? They don’t. The electrons won’t let them. Fortunately the ground got enough of them. If not, it’s called an ocean or a swamp. Then gravity wins. For a while. Like with the feather and the air.

Tomfafa's avatar

@CyanoticWasp resistance!?... I was even smacked once…

roundsquare's avatar

@mattbrowne From what I know, what you’re saying is essentially correct, but this is a hardly the way to explain things to a child. Children need to see things… and they won’t be able to see magnetic repulsion between air and a feather.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@mattbrowne yes, I understand enough of the electromagnetic force to make a joke when I’m hitting a golf ball into a tree and expecting it to go right through “because it’s more than 99% open space between atoms”—but a six-year-old (and most 60-year-olds) don’t get that. They’ll just think you’re crazy, or a bad golfer, or both, for hitting into the woods.

On the macro level that we can see and feel every day, it’s air resistance, and not electromagnetic force, that keeps the feather or the newspaper from falling as fast as the ball. Just like it’s the wood in the tree that bounces my golf ball—even if on a more reductionist level it really is the stronger electromagnetic force between the collection of molecules joined to make up the tree.

If we were going to be even more reductionist we could say that there is no feather, no air, no ball, and we ourselves are merely products of our own (imaginary) imaginations. And we’ll all be dead soon, so what does it matter? There’s time for a 6-year-old to learn all of that later (one hopes); for now, “air resistance” is good to know about for living in the real world.

mattbrowne's avatar

@roundsquare – Well, it was just a suggestion. And don’t underestimate kids.

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