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Plant & Animal Superpowers    Mystery 5

Mystery 5 image

In this Mystery, students examine structures like roots, branches, and leaves that keep trees from blowing down. They use their observations to create their own tree-inspired umbrellas that stay up in the wind.

Why don't trees blow down in the wind?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (3 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (4 of 7)

DISCUSS:

Why do you think trees don’t get blown down by the wind, but umbrellas do?

To help us figure it out, let’s pretend to be trees blowing in the wind. Maybe that will give us some ideas! Go to the next slide to begin.

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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Exploration (5 of 7)
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Beginning Exploration (6 of 7)

DISCUSS:

What ideas do trees give you, for making an umbrella that won’t blow down in the wind?

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Beginning Activity Prep
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Activity Prep

In this activity, students take inspiration from the shapes of trees to design umbrellas that won’t blow away—even in a big wind. Students can work alone or in small groups, where different designs can be compared.

Step 1: Get supplies

For each student, you’ll need:

  • scissors
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • 6 stickers or strips of tape
    • *We use stickers like these because they substitute well for strips of tape and are easier to hand out in a large class
  • 2 bendable plastic straws*
  • Dixie cup
  • clay, playdough (commercial or homemade; see recipe below), or similar, to hold the umbrellas upright in the Dixie cups
    • You’ll need about 3 tablespoons of clay or playdough per student; 6 cups for a class of 32. If you want to make your own playdough, slowly add 2½ cups water (with a few drops of food coloring, if you’d like) to a mixture of 5 cups of flour and 1¼ cups of salt. Stir as you go, and then knead the dough. If it’s too sticky, just add a bit more flour.

You’ll also need:

  • a big rectangle of poster board (We used a 22” x 28” sheet. You could also use two 14" x 22" sheets, taped together.)

Step 2: Print out materials

  • Print out 2 Umbrella Top worksheets per student, plus a few extras
  • Print out several Inspiration Sheets
    • We created these sheets for students who might get stumped or frustrated by the task of improving their umbrellas. We suggest letting students try on their own, providing Inspiration Sheets only to those who need help. Print as many as you think you’ll need for your group.

Step 3: Prepare for class

  • Make one reusable umbrella stand for each student by pressing clay or playdough into the bottom of a Dixie cup. The cup should be about three-quarters full.

  • Clear a big, flat area, such as a tabletop, to serve as a test station. It should be at least 36 inches across—big enough to hold four umbrellas without touching. Make sure you can blow lots of wind on it without disrupting important piles of paper or student work.

  • Fold the poster board accordion style, to make a giant fan.

Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Activity: Wind-Proof Umbrella
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Beginning Exploration (7 of 7)
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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity and exploration you just completed.

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Read-Aloud

  • This video read-aloud of The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires is the story of a girl struggling to create a truly “magnificent thing.”

  • Students will enjoy the surprise at the end of the book and will learn about the process of engineering design along the way.

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Reading & Activities

  • This set of wind activities make a great literature connection to Curious George Flies a Kite by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey.
  • A read-aloud of the book is available in two parts from YouTube: Part 1, Part 2.
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Activities

  • Paper Bag Kite: In this activity, students create simple paper bag kites, then experiment to find out how different features affect how the kites fly.

  • Fly a Leaf: In this activity, students experiment to find out which leaf shapes catch the most wind. Great for a windy day!

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