Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this forces of flight lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students will use BrainPOP resources (including two online games) to explore the properties and physics of flight.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explore the properties of flight using models and online simulations.
  2. Explain how an aircraft overcomes its weight and the push of air to fly.


This lesson plan uses two online games from The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: CSI: Flight Adventure’s Forces of Flight and CSI: Flight Adventure’s Flight School. First, students will explore Forces of Flight, which allows them to experiment with basic terms and concepts of airplane flight and physics. Students can build planes with a variety of bodies, wings and engines and then test their creations to see how well they fly. Next, students will explore the Flight School game, learning and practicing the basics of flight by learning how to fly an FPG-9 (Foam Plate Glider 9). Students will also learn how to direct planes and then test their skills in the Flight Challenges tab as they move the control surfaces on the glider to hit targets. Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from the Teacher Resources provided by the The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

To prepare for this lesson, preview the BrainPOP Flight movie and make photocopies of the Activity, as well as any resources from The Children's Museum that you may want to use. You may also want to review the CSI: Flight Adventures Resources for book and website recommendations.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the BrainPOP Flight movie to build students' background knowledge.
  2. Pass out the Activity and encourage students to talk with a partner about the control surfaces of a plane without marking anything on their papers.
  3. Play the Flight movie through a second time and provide time for students to complete the activity either after the movie is over, or during key pause points.
  4. Tell students they will have the opportunity to design their own plane through an online game and using 3D materials. Project the Forces of Flight game and show students the variety of bodies, wings and engines they can choose from. Have a student volunteer design a plane and explain his or her choices. When the plane is built, the volunteer will be able to test the creation by clicking the “FLY” button. If the plane fails the flight test, students will learn why the plane could not properly fly, and how they can improve the next plane.
  5. Allow students to explore the game independently or with a partner for 5-10 minutes. You may want to have students take screenshots of their plane designs to share with the class afterward.
  6. Bring students back to a whole class discussion. Which plane designs were most successful? Least successful? Why? Help students make connections to what they know about the physics of flight.
  7. Next, project the Flight School game for students, and explain they will use what they have already learned from the movie and Forces of Flight game to learn how to fly an FPG-9 (Foam Plate Glider 9.) You may want to complete the beginning of the game together as a class so you can talk with students about the basics of flight, how to direct planes, and basic glider history and terms. Be sure to demonstrate how students can also keep track of their flight records and observations in the “Flight Research Card” tab at the bottom of the page.
  8. After learning the basics of glider flight in the Flight School tab, show students how they will be able to test their skills in the Flight Challenges tab. Students will be presented with a variety of challenges to participate in. In each challenge, they must move the control surfaces on the glider to hit targets. These challenges can be played as many times as desired. Explain that once students have learned how to control and direct their gliders through the Flight Challenges tab, more complex challenges will be presented. After all missions are completed, students will earn their gold wings and take the bonus mission to unlock the space shuttle landing challenge.
  9. Provide approximately 30 minutes for students to play the Flight School game. You may want students to print out a record of their flight school exercises and how they did on the flight missions.
  10. Talk with students about what they learned through game play. How does an aircraft overcome its weight and the push of air to lift into the air and fly?
  11. Use the game quiz to assess student learning.

Extension Activities:

Challenge students to create a paper airplane that will fly the furthest! Provide time for students to try out different designs. Allow students to access the BrainPOP Flight Experiment for help as needed. Or, use the instructional videos and templates provided by The Children's Museum. More in-depth science investigations and explorations can be found in the Flight Adventures Unit of Study, including instructions for guiding students to construct different types of kites and paper rockets.