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Lesson About Science and Career Exploration for Children With Disabilities

Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.

Simple latex balloons are used in this lesson

Simple latex balloons are used in this lesson

Instructing Children with Vision Loss and Other Disabilities

When teaching children with disabilities, a teacher must be aware of several important factors. Primarily, a variety of approaches must be tried in instruction because every child is not the same. In addition, more time may be needed to discuss concepts. Finally, structure and repetition are essential for students to obtain a desired level of comprehension. Also, a teacher may wish to incorporate “movement” into the lesson. The lesson below uses these techniques.

Since I’ve instructed students with visual impairments and other disabilities, I’ve drawn upon those facts above. Furthermore, I’ve added an element from the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) to this lesson. (See link below.) While discussing what keeps a plane in flight, I saw an opportunity to educate my class about the work of pilots and employees in the air traffic control room. Under Career Exploration in the Ecc, such knowledge broadens my students’ ideas about what happens in the world of work. May the forces be yours!

Key Components of Lesson

Standards – This lesson is in accordance with the ECC under Career Exploration. Also, this lesson follows the N.C. Essential Standards for Science under:

  • 3.P.1 Understand Motion and factors that affect motion
  • 4.P.1- Explain how various forces affect the motion of an object.
  • 5.P.1- Understand force, motions, and the relationship between them.

Grades – 3 through 5

  • Goals – Students will increase their knowledge of objects in motion through the activities and discussion in this lesson.
  • Materials – toys (blimp, hot air balloon, plane); a ball that bounces; an electronic fan; party balloons; copies of the document from NASA (See link below.)
  • Technology Integration –You will need a computer to watch the Youtube video on workers in an air traffic control room. (See link below.)
  • Vocabulary: These are a few of the words relevant to the lesson. Based on time and the needs of your students, modifications can be made. The words included: gravity (weight), lift (Bernoulli’s Principle), thrust, and drag. I added: pilot, control tower, runway, and airport to the vocabulary list.

Lesson Begins

I started by asking my students: “How does a plane fly? What keeps it in the air?” I was met with silence. I continued, “What if I told you we will find out by playing with balloons and other toys and spending time in front of an electronic fan?” As predicted, my students cheered.

I passed out the document from NASA, and we read it together, discussing vocabulary words: gravity (weight), lift, thrust, and drag.

Since the NASA website is extensive, several articles are offered on the topic of flight. NASA also provides a slide show regarding the subject and the forces related to flight. Choose the article that best approximates your students’ comprehension level from the website. If necessary, you might want to create your own document and produce it in the appropriate form for your students.

Activity 1: Models of Identified Flying Objects

I introduced the toy blimp, plane, and hot air balloon to the children, giving my class time to explore the models of aircraft with their tactile sense while asking questions. I explained, “These are tiny representations of some of the different types of vehicles people use to fly. How do these vehicles stay in the air?” The children said they stabilize the forces of nature we discussed.

One child said, “Yes, a plane flaps its wings like a bird.” (Demonstrating how a lack of vision interferes with incidental learning, some may misinterpret a lack of visual knowledge as a problem related to cognition. Simply put: my student had never seen a plane flying through the air.) I addressed this by showing the child that wings of a plane do not move like a bird’s wings. I explained there are different ways to achieve flight. All objects do not move through the air in the same way or apply the same techniques to fly, but for stability, they all must balance the forces of nature.

Any type of ball that will bounce can be used for this lesson. Elementary students really enjoy using a large yoga ball. .

Any type of ball that will bounce can be used for this lesson. Elementary students really enjoy using a large yoga ball. .

Activity 2: The Gravity of the Matter

I had the students put away the toy flying craft and we played with a bouncing ball. I asked, “Why doesn’t the ball fly away like the aircraft?” They answered confidently, “Gravity, Mr. Truzy.” I let the children bounce the ball for a few minutes. I inquired, keeping my students focused, “Why doesn’t gravity pull a plane to earth?” They replied, “All four of the forces we read about are balanced. Gravity is one of those forces.” I was pleased.

A fan allows students to experience air resistance, also known as drag.

A fan allows students to experience air resistance, also known as drag.

Activity 3: Stop Dragging Around

Shortly afterwards, I put the ball away. I told the students, “I’m getting warm in this classroom. I need to turn on the fan. I walked over to the fan and turned it on; then returned to my desk. Immediately, I said, “Wait! I need to adjust it to a lower setting.” I pretended to try to walk toward the fan as it blew on me. I said, “I can’t get to it. It’s pushing me back.”

My students jumped up, crying, “We will get it, Mr. Truzy.”
I replied, “Yes, but walk really slow. What’s happening? Do you notice the same thing when the wind is blowing outside?”

My students acknowledged they could feel the resistance of the fan as they tried to move forward.
I explained, “That’s drag. Essentially, the force of drag pushes you back as you try to go forward.” They laughed, “You were not cold. We get it.”

When the air is released from a balloon, it produces thrust.

When the air is released from a balloon, it produces thrust.

Activity 4: Zoom! Zoom! Lift your Spirits!

I told my students air could also provide thrust. I gave them each a balloon and let them blow them up. I instructed my students to hold the balloons, and then release them simultaneously. They did. The balloons went everywhere to a chorus of laughter and cheers. (They loved the sounds the balloons made as they zipped around.)

Scroll to Continue

I explained planes use engines to provide thrust. I asked, “Planes can fly straight. Then, why don’t they zoom in a wild way like the balloons?” My students said, “The forces are working together to keep the plane stable.”

After collecting the balloons, I instructed my students to observe their shower curtain when they bathed. I told them to notice how the curtain moves inward when they turn on the shower. I said this force is lift causing the shower curtain to rise, much like air moves over a plane’s wings to give the aircraft lift. I went into detail about Bernoulli’s Principle regarding flowing fluids for the children. A few of them had noticed the movement of the shower curtain, but had never considered the force of lift at work.

Activity 5: Fly Me to Antarctica

I pointed out to my students the job of the pilot was to help balance those forces as the airplane flew from one place to another. Then, we talked about what happens in an airport’s control room as well. I asked my students for volunteers. I told them I was going to pretend to be a pilot and I wanted them to help me fly my plane around the classroom from North Carolina to some destination. (Here I let my students choose a point.) They chose Antarctica, pointing out it would e tough to get homework assignments from there. I assured my students I would return to playful sighs of, “Oh, man!” This proves children are similar in many ways regardless of abilities.

My two students sat at the front desk. I instructed them to tell me what I needed to do to keep my plane steadily moving toward my destination. I encouraged the other students to assist when necessary.

Playful Plane Trip around the Room

First: I taxied around the room, making engine sounds as I went. I exclaimed, “This big bird will not fly! What shall I do students?

Answer: Increase your thrust and lift, Mr. Truzy. You have to overcome drag and gravity. Give more power to your engines! Use your wings!

Second: I reported I achieved my cruising altitude, and everything was fine to noisy happiness. Then, I added: “Oh, no! I’m dropping toward the ground! What shall I do students?”

Response: Regain altitude, Mr. Truzy! You must fine balance with the forces of nature to stay on flight! Increase engine thrust! Increase your lift! Use your wings!

Next: I circled the room, coming in for a pretend landing at my desk. I asked: “I’m trying to land. What should I do?”

Answer: Put down your landing gear. Let drag slow you down. Watch your thrust! If you mess up, you will not make it back to the classroom!

Over and Out!

I congratulated my students for getting me to Antarctica safely. I told them we would watch a video now on how the control room of an airport worked. We did. Since my students performed well, they received no homework. One of them responded, “That’s great! We’re glad you didn’t get stuck in Antarctica!”


Air Traffic Controller Working in an Airport Tower – YouTube. Retrieved March 13, 2018, from:

Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from:

K-12 Standards, Curriculum and Instruction - North Carolina Public Schools. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from:


Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on March 26, 2018:

Thank you, Jo. Every day, I am a student, who knows what my children might teach me. I never want to think "I know it all." If I do, I recognize I will be in for a shock. I let the wonder they feel be the source of discovery for all of us in the class.

I remember a quote someone once told me: We are all mines filled with gems. With the right care and polishing we all shine.

You are a teacher, student, and brilliant soul yourself, my friend. Love is a great polisher of our cold stony hearts when we encounter challenges.

Thank you for your kind comment.



Jo Miller from Tennessee on March 25, 2018:

You must be a terrific teacher. Lucky students.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on March 19, 2018:

Hello, holliesandhealth,

Thank you for reading my article and for your kind comment.

These are the people who will represent us tomorrow - they will carry on for mankind when we are not able to. If we don't invest the time to care for the children, then they will not care for themselves and maybe us either.

I've read a few of your articles, so I know these topics are important to you as well.

Thank you again.



Robin Goodfellow from United States on March 19, 2018:

I enjoyed reading this. You're truly passionate about what you do, and that you care about your students. Thank you.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on March 19, 2018:

Thank you, Ms. Dora. My wife and I can almost feel the lights go on when the children understand a concept. As a person who teaches, I know you understand that feeling. It's rewarding and you can sleep at night knowing you have done a little good in the world for young hearts and minds.

As always, my friend, your comments are much appreciated.

I learn as much from you as you credit me for helping you. That's one of the greatest benefits of the community, we live, grow, share, and learn from each other.

Continuing to read your articles keep me encouraged as well.

God bless you,



Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 19, 2018:

Great lesson plan. Shows genuine interest in and commitment to your students. Cheers!

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on March 18, 2018:

Thank you, Sean, my dear brother.

The children come up with the most interesting questions which I try to answer. Imagine explaining the nature of a black hole.

I did this by introducing them to a video by the late great Professor Hawking, telling them that having a disability should not exclude them from exploring science. They were amazed when I told them Dr. Hawking had a disability. They listened to every word he said, and they were stunned to learn he used technology to communicate. They all love Jordi La Forge, portrayed by La Bar Burton on Star-Trek: Next Generation reruns who is a character who is blind.

Although much of these topics don't appear in the curriculum, so to speak, I connect them to what we are studying.

I am honored that you read my article, dear brother Sean.

There is a magic to watching young minds find the love of the forces present in nature. It's that magic that keeps my wife and I involved with children with disabilities. I deeply appreciate your kind comment.



Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on March 18, 2018:

Dear brother Tim, I just found one more reason to admire you and love you!

As I have been teaching my beloved Physics for over 25 years now, I know precisely the difficulties of the laborious task you described. But you have one priceless "thing" that makes this task a blessing for your students and for you too. And this "thing" is Love. I found great Love in every activity that you described. Love for the students, love for the "Holy" Forces of Nature, Love for your job. You are a happy man my friend; I know it because I am trying to do similar things with my students and live that magic!

Thank you for showing the world that magic in a way I would like to do!

My RESPECT for you is getting bigger every time you publish something new. I am so glad for you because my brother Manatita honored you with an offering in his last poem, you deserve it!

May the Force be with you.

Much Love!


Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on March 18, 2018:

Thank you, Manatita,

Work without love is wasted effort and kills the heart, as you wisely pointed out. Thank you for your encouragement and kind comments. I will remember to keep my heart in my work which is easier when a person receives positive reminders.

May your day be blessed and peaceful,



manatita44 from london on March 18, 2018:

Yes, they are at that age and as such their questions. As long as you can do this with Joy in the Heart, then it is a real blessing for the children, for the divine ... for you. Continue ... continue ...

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on March 18, 2018:

Thank you, dear friend. Specialist in vision loss have to know a little about everything. We wear many hats because the children we work with wear caps, put upon them by a lack of vision and societal bias. Some days it's science, math, some days braille, some days social studies . . whatever it takes for children to obtain access to the general curriculum. Many days, it's just helping children understand basics like "Why can I feel the sun but I can't reach out and touch it?"

My wife specializes in science instruction for children with vision loss. She's my go to person on that topic. However, general relativity, quantum mechanics, math, English instruction, braille, . . . those are my favorite areas. Interestingly enough, the curriculum doesn't mention much a bout the higher level sciences, but my children want to learn these things. (It's a product of watching movies like Star Wars and the Star Trek series. (If I had a dime every time a child asked me: "Mr. Truzy, how does the transporter work on Star Trek? I would probably be a millionaire.

it's always an adventure.



manatita44 from london on March 17, 2018:

I think I lost my first attempt. Great interaction with children here and you seem to know a thing or two about physics. Is that what you teach?

I love the balloon idea, the fan and your other creative games. Great fun!!

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