The History of Flight


Our “story” for this post is meant to be a conversation starter rather than tell a complete story. The Animated History of Aviation, a three-minute video from Utah Valley University’s School of Aviation Science, takes you on a brief tour of aircraft and aeronautic inventions throughout history and introduces you to the creators of each device.  Watch the video, then peruse the list below for free activity guides, science experiments, fun paper airplane tie-ins and more!

Aviation History

Print a free 20-page activity book about Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Get a free copy of The Sky’s the Limit, a series of eBooks featuring people who made contributions to the field of aviation. Each book features several people as well as a few activities.  Volume 1 features the early days of flight; Volume 2 features military aviators; Volume 3 features the arts and aviation; and Volume 4 features space travel.

Complete historical aircraft dot-to-dot printables.

Download Celebrating a Century of Flight, a free guide from NASA about the history of flight.

The National Air and Space Museum has a free teacher’s guide about the African American Pioneers in Aviation.

Legends of Flight is a free guide made for the IMAX movie by the same name, but it can be used as a stand-alone guide with some modifications.  Best for 4th – 8th grade.

Learn about how the world of aerospace evolved – from pre-1700 to the modern era – with this interactive timeline (suited for older learners).

View a variety of historic airplanes featured in aviation art.  After following the link, you can learn more about specific planes by clicking on the artwork.

Print the Mini-Page, a kid-friendly newspaper, featuring The Wright First Flight Site.

My kinesthetic learners enjoy learning about history using coloring pages.  Dover’s History of Flight Coloring Book is one of the best we’ve found!


Flight Science

Learn more about the science of flying with these easy-to-use home experiments.  If you want the free eBook referenced in her post, the link takes you to an error page.  You can access the eBook here:  Aviation for Kids:  A Mini Course for Students Grades 2 – 5.  Be sure to check out her post as well, because it has simple, step-by-step experiments with helpful photos!

Check out NASA’s Museum in a Box, a fun, hands-on lesson pack for grades K – 12.  There are some great resources here!

The Evergreen Museum offers free educational packets that provide science, math, history, and art connections for K-6th graders.  Be sure to check out their downloadable activities at the same link!

The Federal Aviation Administration has a free aviation science guide for your elementary learners.  Choose from a variety of science experiments.

Science in Your Airplane Seat – Take this with you to do some science experiments at the airport and on the plane!  These are great if you plan to travel this holiday season!

How did we learn to fly like the birds?  Find out NASA’s answer here.


Aviation Math

Math in Flight – This free 17-page downloadable booklet from the Air Force introduces high school students to math applications found in flight.

Play Flying High, an airplane-themed multiplication game.  (Adobe Flash Player required.)

Find a nice variety of math-themed airplane lessons here (we used the “Applying Flying” activities).  Personal note:  I am not in love with the design of this site.  Thankfully the lessons were worth overlooking the site design, so don’t let aesthetics discourage you!



Educator Guides

These guides are large (generally 50+ pages each), but we love them because they offer a lot of options from which to choose.

Download NASA’s 129-page Aeronautics Educator’s Guide with activities in science, math and technology.  Recommended for grades 2 – 4.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has a free Flight Adventures teaching guide/unit study for your 3rd – 5th graders.  Be sure to check out their interactive activity here as well!

Get a free Educator’s Guide from the Cradle of Aviation Museum.  This one is made for a museum visit, but there are some useful printables.



Watch The Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine (NOVA) and use this free activity guide for pre-and-post video discussion and extended activities.

This twelve-minute video features the Wright brothers and the role they played in aviation history.

Watch The Century of Flight, a BBC video series about aviation history.  There are 26 videos in the series (you do not have to watch all of them to learn something from them), and they are about 50 minutes each.

Paper Airplanes

Photo Credit: Inspired Barn

These instructions are for making paper airplane valentine cards, but it would be great to use for writing activities – especially for a reluctant writer!

Check out this free teaching guide to accompany The Kids’ Paper Airplane Book.

Your younger learners will enjoy these printable paper airplanes from Disney’s Planes movie.

NASA teaches you how things fly with this printable paper airplane.

Learn about the scientific method and how to apply it to paper airplanes with these activities.

Create paper airplanes using instructional videos.



Interactive Online Activities

AMA Flight School has three interactive online games to help teach the principles of flightflight dynamics, and the forces of flight.  If you have trouble using any of those links, use the main page and scroll down to the interactive learning tools.

Learn how things fly and design an airplane with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum!  Then find other interactive activities on their web site here.



Ideas for Younger Learners

Incorporate your younger learners with these activities (linked from a free sample from Learnzy Preschool Curriculum).

For make-believe, you can print this great airport pretend-and-play kit!



Library Book Suggestions

Check out Seymour Simon’s Paper Airplane book from your local library to learn the physics and science of flight – and get more ideas for paper airplanes!

The Boy and the Airplane is a wordless book with a theme somewhat reminiscent of The Giving Tree.

Read To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers to learn about the Wright brothers. It begins with their childhood fascination with flight up to their successful flights of 1903.

How People Learned to Fly is a level 2 book from the Let’s Read and Find Out science series.  This book features the creative and sometimes wacky experiments people tried before the invention of the airplane.

The Glorious Flight tells the story of Louis Bleriot, who built a flying machine to cross the English Channel.

Flight, part of the Eyewitness Books series, provides a great photographic view of the history of flight as well as photos of the different types of aircraft used today. You can also grab a free teaching guide to use with the book (this teaching guide refers to the book entitled Flight as Flying Machine, which is how the book was previously published).

Download a printable Amelia Earhart reader here.



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