|ur replica 1902
Wright Glider, which we christened The Spirit of Dayton, is the centerpiece in a portable Wright Brothers museum,
designed to tour schools, museums, and other educational institutions.
Billed as "an encounter with the innovative minds of the Wright
Brothers," this museum also includes replicas of the 1878 Wright Bat,
the 1899 Wright Kite, the 1901 Wright Wind Tunnel, a Wright bicycle, and a
vintage printing press that prints copies of The Midget, the Wright
brothers first attempt at journalism. Working with
educators, we have developed a project-oriented curriculum around these
artifacts that addresses state "proficiency outcomes" in
science, social studies, and language skills. This educational experience
also includes exercises in creative thinking to help the kids do a little
innovation of their own.
A School Tour
A typical school tour begins when we send the curriculum
to the teachers several weeks in advance of our visit. Using our
materials, the teachers familiarize the kids with the Wright brothers,
their friends and family, the times they lived in, the problem of
mechanical flight, and how the Wright brothers set out to solve it. This
lays the groundwork so the young people can get the most out of our visit.
When we come, we explain to the kids that we have
been conducting an archaeological expedition -- an exercise in "new
archaeology," like the Kon-Tiki adventure -- to help fill in the gaps
of the historical record. This expedition has helped us to recreate the lives of the
Wright brothers and how they worked through the scientific problems that
they faced. Then we invite the kids to participate in this
expedition, letting them become part of the story.
Depending on the needs of your school, the age of
the students, and the material you want us to cover, we can present the
story of the Wright brothers several different ways.
Controlling an airplane --
This is our most popular presentation, and the one best suited for
students from 4th to 8th grade. It can also be adapted for younger
students. We give a fast-paced 50-minute interactive talk on aircraft control,
the most important contribution of the Wright brothers to
aviation. First, we set the scene, describing several important events in
1896 that captured the imagination of the Wright brothers and got them
thinking about aircraft control. Using a special "airplane teeter-totter" , we
demonstrate how the Wrights dissected the problem of control into three
simple movements -- roll, pitch, and yaw. As the
kids stand on the wings of this tipsy model airplane, they experience
firsthand how difficult it is to balance an aircraft in the air. Then
we show how the Wrights addressed each movement separately and how they
brought it all back together to make the first controlled flight in
history. We like to give this presentation to groups no larger the 100
students so as many kids as possible get a chance to participate in the
How an airplane flies --
For older students (grades 9 through 12), we have a presentation that
explores the problem of lift and drag
and how these properties plagued the early experiments of the Wright
The Wrights never expected to wrestle with these problems; they thought
lift and drag had been thoroughly investigated by scientists years years
before Wilbur and Orville became interested in aviation. But the work that others did
before them was flawed. The Wright brothers had to start from scratch by making their own
wind tunnel. We walk the kids through some gee-whiz experiments that
suggest a curved wing ought to produce more lift than a flat wing, then we
have them use the wind tunnel to prove it. They actually get to use the
Wright brothers wind tunnel to conduct their own investigations! This
presentation can last 50 minutes if it's presented as a demonstration or
110 minutes if you would like the students to design and perform their own
experiments. We like to give the 50-minute version of this
presentation to group no larger than 100 students and the 110-minute
version to groups no larger than 50.
Wright kite workshop --
Your students get some hands-on experience with aeronautics as we will
walk them through the very first experiments Wilbur and Orville conducted.
We tell them how an aircraft is controlled (roll, pitch, and yaw), then
show how the Wright brothers discovered a way to roll an aircraft into a
turn. During this workshop, we help the students build a copy of the 1899
Wright Kite from soda straws and plastic garbage bags. Then, if there is
enough wind, we take them outside and show them how to fly the kites. The
kites fly in very light winds -- as little as 5 miles per hour -- so
there's a good chance we'll have some good flights at the end of any given
workshop. If not, we have films we can show so the students can see how to
fly the kites. This kite workshop takes about 4 hours and we like to
present it to groups no larger than a single class or about 30 students.
The last stop on this expedition is propulsion.
This yet another problem the Wrights never planned on solving, but thy
had to take it on. It wasn't that the work that had been done before was
wrong; it was that no one had ever done any work at all. Struggling with
the problem of trying to design an effective propeller, they suddenly have
a flash of insight. A propeller is a wing that spins in a circle! The kids
prove this to themselves by trying different propellers on a Wright
"Bat," a rubber band-powered helicopter Wilbur and Orville first
made when they were children. At the end of the day,
the kids will have met and mastered the same problems the Wrights faced,
and they will have gained an appreciation for how much work it takes to
make a dream a reality.
If you want to know more:
- A Portable Museum describes the artifacts we
bring with us when we visit a school.
- Curriculum gives examples of the materials we
cover and offers a lesson plan
and an activity booklet
that you can download.
- Commendations tells you what other educators
think of The Spirit of Dayton Project.
- Kids' Comments tell you what the
participants think of it.
- And School Tour Costs tell you what it will cost to bring us
to your school.
|Click on a
photo to enlarge it.
Setting up the glider. We can conduct our
demonstrations out of doors if the weather is cooperative, or we can set
up in any 20-foot by 40-foot indoor space.
All set up. These are two of the Wright artifacts we
bring, the 1902 glider and the 1899 kite.
Wonderful day for a flight.
Where else can your students get this close to a
It amazes the kids to learn that in 1902 the
Wright glider was the largest and most
complex flying machine that anyone had ever successfully flown.
Launching the Wright bat to test a propeller.
Making "inner tube boxes" to repeat the
experiment that led to the Wright's first important discovery.
A young mind encounters the innovative minds of the