Lesson Plans

Airplane Anatomy: Helping Orville and Wilbur
Assemble the 1903 Flyer

For Teachers:
Lesson Plan for Airplane Anatomy: Helping Orville and Wilbur Assemble the 1903 Flyer

By assembling online puzzles, students learn to identify the parts of a modern DC-3 airplane and the parts of the 1903 Wright Flyer. Students are introduced to how the parts function to make the airplane fly. This online lesson is suitable for pre-readers.

Grade Level: K-3

Time Needed: 2-3 half-hour sessions

National Educational Standards Addressed by This Activity:

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS, Content Standard E As a result of activities in grades K-3, all students should develop
 • Abilities of technological design
 • Understanding about science and technology

1. Introduce the Wright brothers to the children by reading one of these books to the class:
 • Jenner, Caryn. First Flight: The Wright Brothers.
 • Krensky, Stephen. Taking Flight: The Story of the Wright Brothers.
 • Shea, George. First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers.
 • Yolen, Jane. My Brothers' Flying Machine.
Or choose another age-appropriate Wright brothers book from your school or local library.

Explain that the Wright brothers are remembered and celebrated for two reasons:
 • They invented the airplane and proved it could fly on December 17, 1903.
 • They pioneered the modern practice of aeronautical engineering. All successful airplanes since 1903 have incorporated the basic design elements of the Wright Flyer.
2. Explain that the class is going to learn about the parts of the 1903 Wright Flyer and how the parts worked together to make the airplane fly. Ask children to think about what they already know about an airplane and what they would like to know.

3. Using a projector or large monitor, show children these photographs of the Wright Flyer:
 •  The 1903 Wright Flyer first flown at Kitty Hawk, was the first heavier-than-air, powered aircraft to make a sustained, controlled flight with a pilot aboard. View Photo
 •  The Wright Flyer in the air on December 17, 2003. View Photo
 •  Orville landing the Wright Flyer at the end of its third flight on December 17, 2003. View Photo
You may also print these photographs and hand them out. Then, hold a brief (1-2 minute) classroom discussion about the parts of the airplane the children can see, but don't officially identify any of the parts of the Flyer.

4. In this online lesson, students assemble puzzles of two airplanes: the first is a modern-looking airplane, a DC-3; the second is the 1903 Wright Flyer. Depending upon your students' age and their abilities to work independently, you may choose to organize this lesson in one of these ways:
 • In a whole-class session, use a projector or large monitor to display the puzzle pages and have volunteers assemble the airplanes.
 • Use this online lesson as a center in your classroom and have children cycle through the center and complete the lesson independently.
 • Group students into twos or threes and have them complete the online lesson together.
To begin the online lesson, go to Screen 1, Help Orville and Wilbur Wright Assemble the 1903 Flyer. This is an interactive activity. If you are using a dial-up connection, please be patient while the activity loads. It may take up to four minutes. The lesson includes the following six steps:

1. Help Orville and Wilbur Wright Assemble the 1903 Flyer
2. Put Together the Parts of an Airplane
3. The Parts of the Airplane Work Together to Make it Fly
4. Put Together the World's First Airplane
5. The 1903 Wright Flyer: Built to Fly, Part by Part
6. Today's Airplanes Still Have the "Wright" Parts

If you choose to do this lesson offline, print the following activities:
DC-3 Color by Number
Wright Flyer Color by Number

Discussion and Reflection
After viewing Today's Airplanes Still Have the "Wright" Parts, hold a class discussion about the differences between the DC-3 and the Wright Flyer, which had no cockpit, no seat for the pilot, was made of wood, not metal, had no wheels, etc.

1. Visit a local airport and get a first-hand look at airplanes and their parts.

2. Purchase a Wright Flyer model kit from a hobby shop and make a class project of assembling the airplane. Visit the "Inventing Flight for Schools" site for airplane models and supplies.

3. The Los Angeles Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has built a precise replica of the 1903 Flyer. Learn about the "Wright Flyer Project." http://www.wrightflyer.org/

4. Learn about the restoration and reassembly of the Wright Brothers' 1911 Model B biplane by visiting the "Franklin Institute Online."

5. For Math extension activities, visit airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19610048000 and learn the dimensions of the 1903 Flyer and length of various flights on December 17, 1903. Then have the class participate in these math activities:
 • How big was the 1903 Wright Flyer? Use chalk to lay out the dimensions on the playground.
 • How far did the 1903 Wright Flyer fly? Starting from your drawing, measure how far the airplane would have flown.
 • How much did the 1903 Wright Flyer weigh? Have the children record their weight on chart paper. Then begin adding numbers until you reach 605 pounds, the weight of the Wright Flyer.

Teaching Resources >>