Flight Week

Period: 1-7 June 2020

They week we are going to be thinking about all types of flight. How do aeroplanes get off the ground filled with people and luggage!

We will think about aeroplanes and of course the experts in flight - birds and insects.

In order to learn about how people managed to get a “flying machine “ off the ground we do need to look at what inspired us to try.

So where did it all begin...

Bird of Prey

Activities

1. Flight - An Introduction

Today whichever part of the world you would like to visit you can usually get on an aeroplane and off you go - but imagine a time when that was not possible and it would take weeks to travel to places like Australia by boat.

Imagine being the first person to look up and watch a bird flying through the sky and thinking - “Why can't I do that?”

Many people tried all sorts of wonderful ways of flying - by attaching homemade wings and jumping off bridges. These had very limited success!


To be successful, there was quite a lot of science required to calculate how to defy gravity.

You can read more about the history of manned flight from Leonardo da Vinci's flying machines of 500+ years ago to the modern-day.

Leonardo da Vinci - Flying Machine
Leonardo da Vinci
500+ year old flying machine design
Concord
British Airways Concorde (By Eduard Marmet)
Drone
Drones - A modern day flying machine!

2. Kites

People have enjoyed making and flying kites for many centuries.

Did you know kites were invented in China around 2,800 years ago! They were used to measure distances and wind speeds.

Activity We love kites at Dundee Science Centre - why not have a go at making a kite today with our activity sheet.

If you need some inspiration then watch this video about the Kite Festival in Singapore and the kites the child built there.


Think about what shape would make the best kite and how the shape and size affect how it stays in the sky.

Send us your photos or videos of them flying - if it is windy!

Send Your Kite Photographs

Make Your Own Kite
Make Your Own Kite (PDF)
Our Kite! Did yours do better?

3. How Do Planes and Rockets Fly?

Laws of Motion

Sir Isaac Newton, who we read about in Space week, proposed three laws of motion in 1665. These Laws of Motion help to explain how a planes flies.

  1. If an object is not moving, it will not start moving by itself. If an object is moving, it will not stop or change direction unless something pushes it.
  2. Objects will move farther and faster when they are pushed harder.
  3. When an object is pushed in one direction, there is always a resistance of the same size in the opposite direction.

Remember from Space Week we watched a video of astronauts on the International Space Station demonstrating these laws (see Newton Laws of Motion).

How Do Planes Fly?

Watch this video to see how planes fly.


How Do Rockets Fly?

But how do rockets fly? Watch our videos and find out!

Balloon Rockets
DIY Science - Racing Rockets

4. Bonus Activity - Can You Dock The Space X Dragon?

With the successful launch NASA and Space X Dragon over the weekend we thought you might like to try your hand at flying the Space X Dragon spaceship and docking it with the International Space Space with the simulator from Space.

These are the actual interface used by the NASA astronauts to dock.

Let us know how you get on!

Note: This web page works well with the Google Chrome and Firefox web browsers, but in the Mac Safari browser you might need to switch WebGL to make it work. Works fine on iPad too!
Space X Simulator
Space X Dragon Docking Simulator

5. Bats

Yesterday we were finding out about the history of human flight - today its all about bats - the only mammals capable of continued flight. Some mammals can glide - such as in the rainforest where the trees are very high, and it is easier to jump and glide from tree to tree. Only bats can actually fly!

Have you ever seen a bat flying around your neighbourhood? They are very fast and can be difficult to spot.

They live in all sorts of places - attics of churches and old buildings, hollows of trees, bat boxes and tiny spaces in walls.

Learn more about UK bast by watching this video.


6. Bats Wings

Bats throughout the world come in all different sizes, but we are going to look at bats that live in the UK.

Have you ever seen a bat flying around your neighbourhood?

Bats found in the UK are mostly very small with a wingspan of around 20 cm which is less than a sparrow. The Noctule has a wingspan of up to 50 cm which is our largest bat. You will find Noctules flying low over water catching insects.

Plecotus Auritus
Plecotus Auritus
Nyctalus Noctula
Nyctalus Noctula

Did You Know? - Pipistrelle bats are our most common and are very small but they are great for eating midges and other insects - up to 3,000 in one night , we found out about midges in mini beast week - they bite us and make us itch so eat up little bats!

Bats wings are made of skin muscle and bone and are connected by their fingers and thumb - their fingers are very long in comparison to their body size. Look at your hand spread open and imagine there being skin connecting all your fingers together - of course your fingers would have to be very very long to make then into wings!

Activity: See if you can work out Your Bat Wingspan with the Bat Conservation Worksheet!

7. How Bats Communicate and Make Your Own Bat!

Bats account for almost a third of all mammal species in the UK and are extremely important in terms of biodiversity.

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life. It is seen in the number of species in an ecosystem or on the entire Earth Biodiversity gets used as a measure of the health of biological systems, and to see if there is a danger that too many species become extinct.

Bats can tell us a lot about the state of the environment as they eat many common nocturnal insects - so if there is a problem with these insects then the bats can't eat them and their number will reduce. If there are lots of bats then there are lots of insects.

Activity - Now you have learnt all about bats why not have a go at Making An Origami Bat - maybe make a few and hang them up - you could have your very own colony of bats!

The best way you can help the bat population is to leave them alone really - they like to hibernate over winter so if you think there is a bat nest near you leave it undisturbed and let the occupants snooze through the cold winters and come the spring you can watch them swooping round gobbling up insects galore every evening. They are great fun to watch and if you are lucky you could maybe find out about a Bat Walk in your local area and learn more about these lovely flying mammals!

Not only are bats capable of flying but they also communicate in a very interesting way too!

Watch this video about how bats communicate with one another and navigate their surroundings.



Activity: Now see how much you know about bats by trying the How Much Do You Know About Bats? worksheet.

8. UK Wildlife with Savanna van Mesdag


Today we are very lucky to have a guest post from Savanna van Mesdag who is a University of Glasgow PhD student, based at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences.

Savanna has created two different sets of activities depending upon your age. Please choose the information suitable for your age.


Interesting Facts About UK Wildlife

I’m currently learning about UK wildlife. Wild living things in the UK may not seem as exciting as, say, African or Australian wildlife at first (they have animals like elephants and kangaroos, after all!), but we actually have some really interesting types, or species, of living things.

We have many different species of plants. Some of these are very important for human beings. Some, such as trees, help the environment by making oxygen, which we need to breathe.

Can you think of any species of tree that live in the UK?

Some species include Oak, the Scots Pine, Beech and different types of Cherry tree. If you guessed another species of tree, why not look the tree up online to learn more about it (and/or have a parent/guardian of yours help you)?

In the UK, we also have a lot of small flowering plants, which most of us call flowers. Flowers are not beautiful because they ‘want to be’, all wildflowers have shapes, sizes and colours that help them in nature. They just happen to be beautiful! Flowers have evolved, or grown, many different ways to survive and help them produce seeds for the next generation. In order to survive, many flowers need a helping hand.

What sort of living things help plants, as well as using plants so they can live too? Animals!

In the UK, we have many species of animals, but only a small number of these species are ‘big’ animals like human beings (us!), deer, foxes and badgers. There are many, many more species of insect! Insects, along with other ‘creepy crawlies’, invertebrates, may be much smaller than many animals living in the UK, but they play a very important role in nature.

Think about when you’ve seen insects and what they have been up to. Why do you think they were doing what you saw them doing?

You might have seen some insects feeding on nectar from flowers. When insects like bumblebees fly up to a flower and feed on nectar that is made inside the flower, their legs touch and stick to pollen, which is also produced by the flower. Pollen grains are very small, and they are needed to allow seeds to grow into plants. Bumblebees and other pollinating insects fly around from flower to flower, leaving pollen here and there as they go. By spreading the pollen, pollinating insects can allow plants that might be quite far away from each other to make seeds, which is very important for the flowering plants. So three cheers for the pollinating insects, helping the flowers!

Bumblebees

Other insects feed on dead animals, which are sometimes called carrion. Carrion is not a nice thing for human beings, but many insects enjoy it! By eating all of the carrion, these carrion-eating insects, including carrion beetles, help to get rid of all of the dead animals that would otherwise be lying around all over the place. This is most definitely a good thing!

There are thousands of species of insect living in the UK. Some of these species are very similar to one another, but they all have different roles to play in nature. In order to understand nature, some people spend a great amount of time identifying insects, making sure they know what species they are! Sometimes this can be very challenging but, no need to worry! Some species of insect are actually easy to identify! Below are some common species of insect which look quite different from some other species and so should be quite easy to identify.

The Peacock Butterfly is a common species of butterfly in the UK. The good news is that you can often find these in gardens, so for many of you it’s a safe species to look out for at this time of year. The caterpillars, which are the ‘baby stage’ of butterflies, feed on nettles, so it can be a bit tricky to look for caterpillars as you can risk being stung by the stinging nettles. Luckily, the adults fly around all over the place and so they’re much easier to look for. They spend a lot of time pollinating flowers as they fly around, so they’re very good insects indeed!

Peacock Butterfly
Peacock Butterfly

The Common Wasp is another species that can often be found in gardens. While this is a very pretty insect, don’t get too close to it, as it could sting you and this hurts a lot! While wasps might seem nasty to some people, they too have a role to play in nature. They help to break down and eat a lot of dead wood, which can be very messy and potentially give you nasty splinters. So, while wasps can be rather horrid and sting you, they do help people out as well.

Why don’t you do more reading and learning about UK plants and insects? Enjoy!

Here are the names of some organisations that have lots of information about UK wildlife. You can look these up yourself or have a parent/guardian of yours help you out.

  • Plantlife (Discover Wild plants – has link to kids activities).
  • Buglife (Children and Schools – has links to childrens’ activities Children - has link to previous newsletter editions for children).
  • Butterfly Conservation (Family fun from home – links to various family and child activities).
  • Woodland Trust (Family activities to do from home – recent pages on the website provide activity ideas that can be done from home during this time).
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust (Learning zone – many wildlife-related activities for children of different ages).
Common Wasp
Common Wasp

Interesting Facts About UK Wildlife

I’m currently carrying out a 4-year research project, at the University of Glasgow. While I’m learning many things during my PhD, one of my study areas is UK wildlife (or, at least, some types of UK wildlife). Wild living things in the UK may not seem as exciting as, say, African or Australian wildlife at first, but it turns out that we have some very interesting species of living things.

In the UK, we have many different species of plants. Some of these are very important for the health of the planet, as well as human health. Many trees, for example, can take in great amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. By converting the carbon dioxide into energy to help the tree to grow, the trees release large amounts of oxygen, which we require for our survival.

Can you think of species of tree that live in the UK?

Some UK species include Oak, the Scots Pine, Beech, Hazel, Willow and different types of Cherry tree. If you guessed another species of tree, why not look the tree up online to learn more about it?

In the UK, we also have a lot of smaller flowering plants, which most of us call flowers. Technically, most of the native trees we have in the UK are in the same ‘group’ as flowering plants, even though they look very different and are much larger. We also have a lot of flowering plants of ‘intermediate’ height, some of which you may be familiar with, including gorse and broom (which have yellow flowers that smell like coconut!). All wildflowers have shapes, sizes and colours that help them in nature. Flowers have evolved many different ways to survive and reproduce (producing seeds or similar structures). In order to survive, many flowering plants need a helping hand.

What sort of living things help plants, as well as using plants for their own survival? Animals!

In the UK, we have many species of animals, but only a small number of these species are ‘big’ animals like human beings, deer, foxes and badgers. There are many, many more species of insect. Insects, along with other ‘creepy crawlies’, invertebrates (animals that do not have backbones), may be much smaller than many animals living in the UK, but they play a very important role in nature.

Think about when you’ve seen insects and what they have been up to. How would you describe their behaviour? Were they feeding? Were they staying vigilant and/or running away from potential danger? Were they perhaps mating or fighting?

Insects play many roles in nature. Specifically, they are part of their ecosystems. Ecosystems are ‘units’ in nature which comprise a number of species which interact with one another, as well as their physical environment. For example, if you have a back garden with plenty of flowers and perhaps a tree or two, that’s an ecosystem! The trees and the other plants in the garden interact with invertebrates and other animals, and vice versa. During my fourth-year research project, I’ll be studying how certain plant species and certain invertebrate species may interact with one another and how they rely on each other for survival.

Pollination is an important role that many insects, such as butterflies, bees, bumblebees and moths play in ecosystems. When insects like bumblebees fly up to a flower and feed on nectar, their legs touch and stick to pollen produced by the flower. Bumblebees and other pollinating insects fly around from flower to flower in search for more nectar. By spreading the pollen as they go, pollinating insects can allow plants that might be quite far away from each other to reproduce. Let’s give a big hooray for pollinating insects!

Bumblebees

Other insects feed on dead animals, which are sometimes called carrion. By eating all carrion, carrion-eating invertebrates, including carrion beetles, help to get rid of all of the dead animals that would otherwise be a great nuisance outdoors. Carrion does not just look terrible and upsetting, it can also disease to people and other animals, so having insects eat much of this carrion is a very good thing indeed.

There are thousands of species of insect living in the UK. This does not include the many other species of invertebrates, which include animals such as snails, slugs and woodlice, which are not technically insects. While some insect species are very similar to one another, they all have different roles to play in their ecosystems. In order to better understand ecosystems and the relationships between species within them, some people spend a great amount of time identifying insects, making sure they know what species they are! Sometimes this can be very challenging but, luckily, there are plenty of UK insect species that are easy to identify. Some of these easy species are shown below…

The Peacock Butterfly is a common species of butterfly in the UK. The good news is that you can often find these in gardens, so for many of you it’s a safe species to look out for at this time of year. The caterpillars, which are represent the first life cycle of butterflies, feed on nettles, so it can be tricky to look for caterpillars as you can risk being stung by the nettles. Luckily, the adults fly around to a few different types of flower, so they’re much easier to look out for. They spend a lot of time pollinating flowers, so they’re a very good species indeed!

Peacock Butterfly
Peacock Butterfly

The Common Wasp is another species that can often be found in gardens. While this is a very pretty insect, it’s potentially quite dangerous to humans as it can sting. This can cause very bad allergic reactions in some people, so it’s best to be careful when they’re around! While wasps might seem nasty, they too have a role to play in ecosystems. They help to break down and eat a lot of dead wood, which can be very messy and problematic if left lying around (although some dead wood is a good thing for many insects!). So, while wasps can sting you, they do help people out as well.

Why don’t you do more reading and learning about UK plants and insects? There are plenty of good organisations who post interesting and up-to-date information on UK wildlife, I’ll include the names of some of these organisations below. Enjoy!

Organisations that have more information about UK wildlife (especially plants and invertebrates):

  • Plantlife.
  • Buglife.
  • PButterfly Conservation.
  • Woodland Trust.
  • RHS (Royal Horticultural Society).
  • Trees for Life.
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust.
  • RZSS, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland - they run Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park and they do much conservation work, even for UK species! You can find out more about their work on UK species such as the Pine Hoverfly and the Beaver on their RZSS website.
Common Wasp
Common Wasp
Savanna van Mesdag
Savanna van Mesdag is a University of Glasgow PhD student, based at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences.

"I am a University of Glasgow PhD student, based at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. During my PhD I will research the geodiversity and biodiversity of legacy steel slag sites. I will, hopefully next year, visit sites where steel slag has been dumped (near steelworks such as Ravenscraig) to collect slag samples and record plants and/or invertebrates present on the site. I am keen to see whether or not there are relationships between the composition of the slag (the elements and minerals) and the living things present, particularly the plants. I have a biology background, so it has been a good learning curve for me to incorporate the more familiar world of plants and animals with the less familiar but equally interesting world of geochemistry and mineralogy. I have previous experience doing educational volunteering, mostly with children and families. Most of this was animal- or nature-based, for example, for a few years I was a Leader of an RSPB Wildlife Explorers group (for primary school-aged children) in the south Edinburgh area. I am keen to do more educational volunteering during my PhD, to communicate aspects of my research with others and to engage people with science and scientific thinking. During this difficult time, I am very keen to chat to people online, to talk about my area and related areas of science, as well as what it is like to be a student through different levels of university. I can do this through a number of online platforms, including Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. Please contact me if you would be interested in organising a small presentation online and/or having a Q&A session."

Wildlife Quiz Younger Children
Wildlife Quiz Younger Children (PDF)
Wildlife Quiz Older Children
Wildlife Quiz Older Children (PDF)

9. Flying Insects

During Mini Beast Week we were finding out about insects but we mostly focused on spiders.

Today we are looking at insects that fly.

Recap on Insects

Invertebrates are animals without a backbone and include multi-legged, hard bodies mini beasts known as arthropods.

Can you remember which characteristics help you to identify an insect?

  • Six legs
  • Three body sections - head, thorax and abdomen
  • Pair of antennae
  • Exoskeleton
  • Compound eyes
  • Most have wings
  • Three or four stage life cycle (egg, larva or nymphs, pupa and adult)

There are many different groups of insects but we will look mainly at insects that fly.

How many can you name - here are some to get you started.

  • Butterfly
  • Dragonfly
  • Ladybird
  • Bluebottle fly
  • Bumblebees
  • Beetles
  • Crickets
  • Ants

Fun Garden Activity

Let's do some insect investigation in our garden.

Have a look at the activity sheet and at the insect and plant identification sheet from the Eden Project.

You need to spend some time on this activity and revisit it on many occasions to see if you can find some insects and maybe some wildflowers such as daisies and buttercups.

Did you know that the Eden Project that you can read about on the link below is considering building a similar structure in Dundee - how exciting!

So how do insects fly? Are they different from bats?

Let's find out in the next section...

10. How Do Insects Fly?

In order to fly there are a few important factors:

  • The shape of the wing
  • The ability to move it through the air
  • Scientists have been trying to work out how insects fly for many many years - this has been quite tricky due to the size of the insects - very tiny - and the speed at which they fly around.

Have you tried to follow a fly or a wasp around the house to try to open the correct window to let it out?

They seem to disappear and then all of a sudden it is right beside you!

When high-speed film was invented this made the scientist life so much easier and started to give them all the information they were missing.

What has been found out is that insects use two different mechanisms for flying - either indirect mechanism or direct mechanism.

Direct Flight Mechanism

This involves the insect using the muscles that attach the wings to their bodies to move their wings first in one way such as up and then the other way down but sometimes this is sideways and backwards and forwards - quite a complicated movement!

Indirect Flight Mechanism

This is slightly different as instead of just moving the wings by way of muscle sets they change the shape of the thorax - the centre part of the insect's body - almost like when we breathe in and out and change the shape of our chest and stomach - this mechanism moves the wings - sounds exhausting for a wee tiny insect but actually uses less energy than the direct flight.

YouTube Video: How Do Insects Fly?

Find out more about these insects on the woodland trust web site

Fun Activity: Now Make Your Own Flying Insects with our activity sheet and send us photos of what you have made!

Send Us Your Flying Insect

Now let's look more closely at a few of our favourites... Butteries and ladybirds...

11. The Butterfly

What is your favourite insect? We love butterflies and ladybirds!

Butteries have the most beautiful wings they are quite large compared to their body size and are very delicate.

A butterfly starts life flightless, as a caterpillar, and eats mostly leaves and vegetation. They change into butterflies through the process of metamorphosis. During this time they are inside a hard shell called a chrysalis, here their wings develop.

When a butterfly emerges its wings are wet and need time to dry out in the air. Butterflies have two pairs of wings which are covered in tiny scales, this is what gives them colour and their symmetrical pattern.

They only live as a butterfly for around 2 weeks so they have to work fast. As an adult they only eat nectar or similar liquids, through a mouthpiece called a proboscis, which is a little like a straw.

The butterfly has 2 antennae at the top of its head and then its main body.

There are 59 different species of butterfly in the UK. Butterflies usually fly during the day but rest their wings at night by folding them together.

Their wings are very delicate and the oils on our hands can damage them meaning they won't be able to fly.

Interesting Fact: Butterflies taste with their feet!

The Butterfly Lifecycle

Note: See https://www.rspb.org.uk/ for more details.

12. The Ladybird

The ladybird, like most beetles, have two sets of wings.

The front wings are called the Elytra. They don't move when a ladybird is flying. Then they have the long hind wings which unfold when a ladybird flies.

The wings flap quickly from front to back, at a speed of 85 times every second.

When the ladybird lands, the wings fold neatly back underneath the elytra.

Watch the video to see how it happens in slow motion!

Fun Activity: Why not try to see if you can spot moths at night. Ask your parents for a sheet and hang it on the washing line. Wait for it to get dark then shine a torch on the sheet and watch the moths fly towards the light. Can you see their wings and how big they are compared to their body?
Ladybird
Ladybird Taking Off - Can you spot their wings?
Ladybird In Hand
Look what we found in our garden at home!

13. The House Fly

A few fun facts about the common house fly:

  • The house fly can travel a distance of up to 2 miles.
  • House flies live on a liquid diet and poop A LOT.
  • They can walk upside down, using suction pads on their feet.
  • Flys can reach about 3600 feet high when flying, it gets too cold to go further.
  • Flies look like they only have one set of wings but when you look really closely you will see a second pair of much smaller secondary wings, these are called halters. They use the main pair for flying, however, they do use the halters to help keep their balance when up in the air. If they didn't have both sets of wings they would not be able to fly.
  • They beat their wings 200-300 times a second!
  • They can travel at 4.5 miles an hour, pretty fast for a tiny fly.
Fly
Fly
Fly
Fly

14. World Environment Day

This week we have been finding out about all forms of flight from mechanical to winged animals and insects.

Today is all about birds but since it is World Environment Day we thought we would begin with how we can do small things every day to help our environment.

Recently there have been reports in the media about how our sky’s are clearer and there are more birds in our gardens. Why do you think this is?

Is it due to less aeroplanes in the sky or less cars on the road?

Have you spotted anything different while out on your daily walk?

Do you hear more bird song or maybe a few birds your don’t recognise - we saw a Jay recently - they are quite timid birds so was a lucky find!

World Environment Day promotes ways to improve the Earths environment, such as conserving forests.

Forests of all kinds are important to us - keeping the air clean and supporting all sorts of wildlife.

Remember on Tuesday we found out that bats are a key sign of the biodiversity of our countryside - the theme of this year's World Environment Day is Celebrate Biodiversity.

15. How Do Birds Fly?

This week we have considered how humans managed to get aeroplanes to fly.

We have also learned lots about bats and not only how they fly but also how they communicate!

Yesterday was everything to do with insects and of course a week on flight would not be complete without our feathered friends the birds!

In Spring week we did some bird identification and we found out about birds nesting and what we kind of birds we might find in our gardens.

Today let's have a look at feathers and how birds can fly due to their special shape and features.

When you look up to the sky and watch the birds do you wonder how they manage to stay up there and of course how they actually get into the air.

Important Fact: Feathers are unique to birds.

Feathers provide:

  • Insulation
  • Protection
  • Preening and to make themselves more attractive to find a mate and fight off rivals for territory
  • Strong enough to be twisted and bent during flight without damage
  • Insulation for nesting

Birds have the correct bodies for flying they are lightweight and have shaped wings to help them along with strong legs for pushing off and landing.

Take some time to watch birds flying - they don’t flap their wings all the time they often glide and swoop - watch and see if you can see when they do this.

If you are very lucky you may see baby birds learning to fly at the moment as they are starting to leave the nest.

Do all birds fly?

The answer is no there are a few birds that do not fly such as the penguin and the ostrich and emu!

Sometimes birds ability to fly can be reduced when they are moulting (losing and replacing their feathers).

Live Osprey Nest Cam

Have you been watching the Osprey’s on the webcam on the Woodland Trust web site?

There are three little chicks hatched and the parents are feeding them with fish from the nearby loch.

Also see our other Home Learning Portal information and don't forget to enter our Competition of the Week.

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.