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Perfect parascending parachutes

Create your own canopies and watch them fly.

You will need

  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • String
  • Plastic tablecloths
  • Marker pens
  • Elastic cord
  • Barrel fishing swivel clips
  • Devices with access to the internet (optional)
Parachute statements
PDF – 70.7KB
Illustrated instructions (Perfect parascending parachutes)
PDF – 123.3KB

Before you begin

  • You could start with ‘It’s a drag’ from Drag it, lift it, thrust it, weigh it to introduce the basic theory of flight and air resistance.
  • It’s up to you whether you let everyone loose to research online or whether you use the 'Parachute statements' matching activity. You know your group best, so choose whichever will work for them.
  • The instructions are for creating a round canopy as they’re commonly used for parascending. People could get creative, though. They could make a different shaped parachute based on their research, or even make more than one parachute and compare how well they work.
  • Everyone will need a 60cm square of lightweight plastic tablecloth. You could also use white bin liners (so you can still draw on them) or even reuse worn-out bags for life. You may want to cut these out before the session to save time.
  • Swivel clips are useful as they stop everything getting tangled, but your parachutes will work without them if you can’t get any.
  • It’s up to you whether you make sky balls or just use toys you already have. If you want to make sky balls, you’ll need balloons, rice, empty 500ml bottles, scissors, and elastic cord; the instructions are below. You could even use eggs and challenge teams to make a parachute that protects the egg when it’s dropped from a height.

Do your research

  1. The person leading the activity should explain that different types of parachutes have different features that make them suited to different situations.
  2. Everyone should get into small groups.
  3. If they’re using the internet, each group should research parachute examples. They should start by looking at the differences between round canopy parachutes and ram-air canopy parachutes. Once they’ve finished, each group should take it in turns to tell everyone what they found.
  1. If they’re not using the internet, the person leading the activity should give everyone the cut out parachute statements. The groups should sort them into two groups – one for round canopies and one for ram-air canopies. Once they’ve finished, the person leading the activity should reveal the correct answers.

Craft a parachute

Check out the ‘Illustrated’ to help you follow the steps below.

  1. Get a 60cm square piece of thin plastic.
  2. Fold the square in half, then in half again. There should now be a four layers of plastic squares that are 30cm square.
  3. Use a ruler to draw a 12cm square starting from the four loose corners and carefully cut it out.
  1. Unfold the canopy and lay it out. It should be a plus shape.
  2. Stick the two edges on each corner of the canopy together using sticky tape. This should make the parachute ‘pop up’ to become more 3D. Put the sticky tape at the edge of each corner of the canopy, leaving a gap to create a slit for an air vent.
  1. Cut two pieces of string that are 75cm long. Mark around 3cm from each end of the string using a pen and ruler.
  2. Stick the end of one piece of string inside a taped corner of the parachute. Line up the 3cm mark with the edge of the canopy so 3cm of string is inside.
  1. Attach the other end of the string to the next corner of the canopy in the same way.
  2. Hold the two corners of the canopy together and stretch the string out to find the middle. Tie a knot in the middle to create a small loop.
  3. Repeat steps seven to nine with the other piece of string and other two corners. Try to make sure the loops are as even as possible.
  1. Thread some elastic cord through both of the loops. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic cord to attach it to the loops. Tie a swivel hook to the other end of the elastic cord and trim any excess. These are the parachute’s links and harness.

Time to fly

  1. Everyone should run through the different parts of their parachute. Can they find the canopy, vents, suspension lines, and harness?
  2. Everyone should use a sky ball, toy, or egg to the parachute’s swivel clips, in place of a parascender.
  3. Everyone should fold their parachute. They should hold the top of the canopy in the centre, pull the strings straight, and squeeze any air out of the canopy. Then, they should fold the top of the canopy over to where the suspension lines start and roll it tightly into a ball.
  1. Once the canopy’s folded, everyone should wrap the suspension lines and elastic cording around it.
  2. Everyone should take it in turns to hold their parascender and parachute in one end and throw them into the air. They should throw them as far and high as possible.
  3. Once everyone’s thrown their parachute a few times, they should gather back together.
  4. Everyone should think about how the parachute works to catch air and slow the parascender’s fall. Can they explain what’s happening using terms like ‘drag’ and ‘air resistance’?

You will need

  • Balloons (optional)
  • Rice (optional)
  • Empty 500ml bottles (optional)

Reflection

This activity was all about developing skills. Did anyone learn anything new about parascending or how parachutes work? Has anyone tried parascending (or another activity that uses a parachute) before? If not, would anyone like to give it a go? How would they feel about using a parachute for real? Sometimes, learning about how things work can help people to feel more confident about trying out a new activity. When else might giving something a go on a smaller scale help people to tackle a big challenge or adventure?

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Scissors

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe.

For more support around online safety or bullying, check out the NSPCC website. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.

As always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.