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  • Writer's pictureAmy Wung Tsao

Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away! ✈

Updated: Jan 21

A Note from Amy

Happy April, dear readers!

In honor of the neurodiverse people in my life and Autism Awareness/Acceptance/Appreciation Month, (the name is…complicated) I’m sharing another non-STEM picture book this month: “A Friend for Henry” by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song. This is Henry, watching the class goldfish:

 Illustration of a young East Asian boy and a young dark-skinned girl watching a goldfish in a fish bowl. The text reads: “Gilly floated past. ‘She’s shimmery,’ said Katie. ‘But she doesn’t blink,’ said Henry. ‘What does she do?’ She burps pebbles, Henry thought. And breathes under water. And turns sunshine into colors. Henry hunched into his sweatshirt. ‘Fish things.’”

“She burps pebbles, Henry thought. And breathes underwater. And turns sunshine into colors.”

All Henry says out loud though is that the goldfish does “Fish things.”


This scene stuck with my very talkative 9yr old for a long time, and helped her better understand the neurodivergent people in her life. To me, that makes this a magical picture book.

 

Flight


“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

― Leonardo da Vinci


“‘The Guide says there is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

― from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams


Airplane about 50 feet off the ground above a lit up runway, with buildings and trees at the base of a mountain in the background.
Credit: Pascal Meier, Unsplash

Why don’t planes flap their wings like birds? Were there other airplane inventors besides the Wright Brothers? Find out from the STEM educational resources below!


(Just a reminder - I am never paid to mention any of these resources; there are no affiliate links.)

 

Videos


From ScienceMax (YouTube)


Can Science Max make a giant paper airplane that actually flies? Well, it takes him a few hilarious tries! My favorite part is actually 4 minutes in: why your paper airplanes might veer off to the side or tilt or roll, and how to fix it!


And if you like that, there’s another great episode where he builds a giant flying hoop glider!



SciShow Kids


Watching cartoons as a kid, I always thought those white streaks came from extra fast jet planes. Turns out, cartoons are not a reliable source of scientific information!



SciShow Kids


Mister Brown and Squeaks the Rat talk about helicopters flying on Earth and Mars! And then they make their own propellers. (Here’s the link to the printable that they used. You could also trace the simple design onto plain paper, if you don’t have a printer.)


 

Books


Cover illustration of a young black boy in construction worker outfit looking down thoughtfully at his flying contraption, which has crashed into the ground in his yard.

By Gaia Cornwall


Inventing a flying machine is harder than Jabari thought. With some unexpected inspiration from his little sister, will his improved ramp and wings help his machine soar?










Illustrated cover. A nervous white cat stands upright wearing casual clothes and a backpack and holding a plane ticket. An excited brown cat leaps through the air, also wearing a backpack and clothes and carrying a plane ticket.  There is an airplane on a runway and an airport in the background.

By Drew Brockington


This graphic novel is mostly about Waffles and Pancake experiencing their first flight. But Waffles keeps asking how the plane flies if it doesn’t flap its wings like a bird, and he finally gets a good scientific answer from the pilot at the end!











Cover illustration of a close-up of an eagle with wings spread and claws out.

By Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Gorgeous illustrated spreads of bees, dragonflies, birds, flying dinosaurs and flying frogs! Learn about each animal's unique features, like hollow bones or specially shaped wings, that help it fly or glide.








Young black girl in a red and white polka dot dress jumping up to point at a rainbow kite. There’s also a helicopter, a hummingbird, and a rocket ship drawing.

By Andrea Beaty and Dr. Theanne Griffith


Flip through Ada’s science notebook, where she investigates questions like “Can all birds fly?” and “How do hot-air balloons go up, up, up without wind?” It's densely packed with science and history!











White woman with brown hair and a blue dress, looking up at birds and a biplane flying in the sky.

By Kirsten W. Larson, illustrated by Tracy Subisak


Emma Lillian Todd looked at the Wright brothers lying flat in their plane, legs dangling, and knew she could invent something more practical! This story of persistence includes many quotes from Lilian Todd herself, such as, “The machine is completed, and ready to prove to the world that a woman’s machine is quite equal to a man-made flyer, and far more practicable in some respects than many he has made.”


 

Activities


From SciShow Kids

Here's a basic airplane fold for younger kids! You could experiment with adding a paperclip for weight, or using lighter or heavier paper. You could also check out the ScienceMax video at the top for how to stop your airplane from rolling or diving. For older kids, here are folding instructions for the Sky King design that set a world record in 2009!



Make a Parachute!

From SciShow Kids

With a safe place to drop parachutes (standing on a stable chair would work!), let kids experiment with their own parachute designs! Younger kids will need a little bit of help assembling their coffee filter parachutes.



From NASA

My kids have asked to do this activity multiple times over the past couple years! If you have a printer to print out the template, great! If not, you could easily trace the design onto plain paper. Cut it out, do a little bit of simple folding, and then drop your helicopter propellers and watch them spin down to the ground! This works best if your kids have a safe place to drop their helicopters from.


 

Did you notice that the theme of persistence came up over and over again in the videos and books above? It’s not easy to defy gravity! I hope that these grit inspire you in whatever challenge you’re tackling today!


Next month I’m starting a whole series on math. There’s going to be stories and playing with numbers - nothing like math class when you were growing up!


Until then, have fun lighting sparks of curiosity!

Amy Wung Tsao


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