Wright Brothers’ Flight at Kitty Hawk December 17, 2003

100th Anniversary of Flight
December 17, 2003

One hundred years ago, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first successful sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine. This marked the beginning of a revolution in travel, communication, warfare, business, and culture. Join SCORE History-Social Science in celebrating this momentous event with the following web resources for your classroom.

Margaret Hill

Web Resources for Learning About the Wright Brothers and First Flight

Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company
Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company is a virtual museum of pioneer aviation. The History Wing has tales of the Wright brothers, the people who knew them, and the airplanes they flew. It includes a timeline of early aviation, from the inception of the fixed-wing airplane in 1799 to the days just before World War 1. The Adventure Wing has plans and instructions for hands-on aviation projects and experiments.

"To Fly is Everything..." A Virtual Museum Covering the Invention of the Airplane
"To Fly is Everything..." has a balanced discussion written by Gary Bradshaw of the work of the Wright Brothers and others who were responsible for developing the airplane.

U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission Born of Dreams – Inspired by Dreams
U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission has a wealth of resources for the teacher, for kids and for the general enthusiast. The History of Flight has a wealth of images as well as a dictionary, essays, and a timeline. There are also posters to print. You can even order tickets to the celebration!

Wright Experience
One hundred years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright set out to solve the problem of flight. Their methodical experimentation with kites and gliders evolved into one of mankind's greatest inventions—powered aircraft. Unfortunately, there is little documentation of the journey of invention and discovery that resulted in this incredible accomplishment. The visually rich site Wright Experience attempts to recreate this invention process followed by the Wright Brothers in developing their plans.

Stories of the Wrights’ Flight
Stories of the Wrights’ Flight is part of a Smithsonian Institution series that employs primary sources in the study of historical events. The background essay relates key steps in the invention of the aircraft that made the historic flight.

December 17, 1903. The Day Man First Flew
This site was created by the North Carolina State Library and has a great description of the events of December 17, 1903.

Photo Sites

This 20th century invention has a wealth of primary visual sources to bring the study to life.
Here are a few:

Evolution of the Wright Flier in Pictures
Here are eight period photos of the aircraft that preceded the Wright Flyer that flew at Kitty Hawk. These photos were taken by the Wright Brothers themselves.

Wright Brothers/1903 Wright Flyer Photo Gallery
Here are pictures of the first flight but also of the diary pages, the test flights, and more.

Kitty Hawk - Kill Devil Hills: Wright Brothers Photographs 1900-1911
Here are over 40 photos taken by the Wright Brothers of their work and life.

Biographies of the Wright Brothers

Through biographies on line and in print classes can learn how Wilbur and Orville Wright conquered the problems that faced them in developing a workable heavier than air flying machine and how they struggled to market that discovery to the world. Here are some suggested sites. The section on Literature, has a list of books for students at varying grade levels.

A Century of Flight
This is a brief, visually rich set of biographical pages on the Wright Brothers written by the Dayton Daily News.

Wright Brothers
This Greenfield Village site provides a brief biography of Orville and Wilbur Wright from childhood through their cycle shop and their study and work in aeronautics.

The Wright Brothers
The is a brief and easy-to-read biography of the Wright Brothers written by Bill Gates as part of a Time Magazine tribute to the top 100 people of the last 100 year. It links to a video clip.

Web Lessons for 100th Anniversary of Flight

There are a wealth of teaching resources related to the Wright Brothers and the history of aviation. Most of these are science related but here are a few that have a history-social science focus.

The Centennial of Flight: Rediscovering the Challenges of Flight
The US Centennial of Flight Commission was set up by Congress to advise the President, Congress and Federal agencies on the most effective ways to encourage and promote national and international commemoration of the centennial of powered flight, December 17, 2003. The topics of the history of aviation technology and the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, exciting on their own, come to life in classrooms through the live interactions with NASA.

Elementary Lesson Activities

Aviation for Little Folks (K-2)
The students learn about and label the parts of an airplane, read about what makes an airplane fly, make paper airplanes, and perform flight tests with the airplanes.

Wright Brothers History
Discover the challenges which the brothers faced as they attempted to achieve first flight. List in chronological order the challenges and how they overcame them. Create a "Chat" with the Wright Brothers: 1. Suppose you had a chance to ask questions of Orville and Wilbur Wright. What would you ask them? What would you like to know? 2. Generate a list of questions. 3. Sample from the list of archived chats and see what others asked.

Educators Flight Plan: U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission
Celebrate the Centennial of flight in your class through predicting the weather, learning a fact-a-day about aviation, and a word search.

The Wright Brothers on "Hollywood Squares"
Read aloud a brief biography of the Wright Brothers from one of the list of biographies in the literature section or one of the sites below, http://www.inventingflight.com/invention/wb_beginning.php or http://www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/wright/ Students listen carefully and take notes. Using the 30 questions provided, play a Hollywood-Squares-style comprehension game after listening to the story.

Wright Brothers Activity Book
Here are simple one-page activities such as word searches and sketching that were put together by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Wright Brothers Timeline
After researching provided websites and suggested literature, students create a timeline of important events in the lives of the Wright Brothers. The timeline will include photographs from online resources.

The 95th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ First Flight
December 17, 1903 - December 17, 1998
Though written five years ago, this skit points out the historic importance of the Wright Brothers work and how it relates to contemporaries in a student-friendly manner.

Middle and High School Activities

Who, What, When, Where, Why
In groups of five, students examine primary source documents from the Smithsonian, including a diary, a letter, a telegram, an interview, a magazine article, and newspaper article. They look for answers to specific questions about the Wright Brothers’ first flights. The students come together to compare answers, to discuss the reliability of the sources, and to reach conclusions about the best—or most likely—answers to the questions. They then compare their work to a secondary source, an article that appeared the next day, December 18, 1903, in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

Flights of Inspiration
Compare the flights of the American Wright Brothers in 1903 with the first transatlantic flight of two British men, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten, a mere 16 years later. Students use the “Forces of Flight” and the “Challenge of Flight” to design their own model aircraft.

"Wright-ing" Biographies for Young Readers
Students research the life of the Wright Brothers by reading biographies for young readers from the accompanying list of literature. Discuss how the authors relate the story to the age level of the readers. Write a draft biography, cross-edit with a classmate, and share the final biography with a reader from a lower grade.

Wright Again
The “Wright Again” project virtually re-creates the development and construction of the Wright Flyer on the Web. The project follows the progress of the Wrights day by day, explaining the successes and setbacks from a scientific perspective as well as historical. Issues include aerodynamics, propulsion, control, and structural design. As the project moves along the developmental timeline, new discoveries are presented with accompanying hands-on classroom activities so that students can themselves become amateur engineers. All classroom activities are aligned with the National Science Education Standards. Project participants will use the original experimental data from the Wrights' wind tunnel journals in the lesson plans!

Literature Selections Related to the Wright Brothers

Elementary Level Books

First to Fly: How Wilbur and Orville Wright Invented the Airplane
Peter Busby
Crown Publishing, 2003
ISBN: 0375 812873
The pages of this picture book are filled with large, rich paintings that add a flavor of realism and an almost nostalgic feel. Archival photos from the Wright Brothers' own collection and diagrams created by a mechanical engineer/aeronautics expert do much to help readers understand the concepts of flight. On the morning of December 17, 1903, Orville flew 852 feet and for 59 seconds in the first ever manned and powered flight. While some accounts stop with this achievement, Busby goes on to describe other flights and the company the Wrights founded supplying licensing designs for airplane manufacturers.

First Flight: The Wright Brothers (DK Readers, Level 4)
Caryn Jenner
DK Publishing, 2003
ISBN: 0789492911
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright were fascinated by all kinds of vehicles, but what they dreamed of was flight. They were convinced they could build a machine that a man could pilot-and they did. Young readers will be fascinated by their story of science, endless testing of ideas, and finally success.

Taking Flight: The Story of the Wright Brothers
Stephen Krensky
Aladdin Library, 2001
ISBN: 0689812248
This book from the Ready-to-Read series offers a simple, visually appealing look at the Wright Brothers' experiences with their flying machines. Focused on the years from 1899 to 1903, Krensky sets the scene with comments on the concurrent development of the automobile and the widely held opinion that flight was not in mankind's future. Short quotations from the Wrights' letters add detail and interest to the narrative.

To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers
Wendie C. Old
Clarion Books, 2002
ISBN: 061813347X
The fascinating lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright are portrayed here in brief, accessible chapters, beginning with their childhood fascination with flight and love of problem solving. The book details their early experiments and dangerous trial runs in North Carolina, and ending with their successful flights of 1903. It is illustrated with elegant watercolors by Robert Andrew Parker, and has a timeline, endnotes, and bibliography.

First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers
George Shea
Scott Foresman, 1997
ISBN: 0064442152
Based on a true story, this entry in the “I Can Read” Chapter Book series, tells of Tom Tate, a boy from Kitty Hawk who befriended Orville and Wilbur Wright and took the second solo flight on their first glider. The tale does not end with Tom's flight, for he continues to watch his friends' experiments until, in 1903, he is there to see Orville take the first machine-powered flight. The illustrations, tinted with delicate watercolors, feature strong line drawings that show the characters' emotions through their faces and body language. This is a good introduction to the Wright Brothers, from a child's point of view.

The Wright Brothers (In Their Own Words)
George Sullivan
Scholastic, 2003
ISBN: 0439263204
Because the Wrights left so much behind in the form of letters, notes, and interviews, Sullivan, like other biographers, had much material to draw from in putting together his biography. He methodically tells the story of these famous brothers in simple, straightforward language. The text is liberally sprinkled with appropriate photographs and on every five or six pages a slight margin of handwriting appears-a reminder of the reliance on primary sources. A listing of museums that provide booklets and packets of information is appended.

Young Orville and Wilbur Wright: First to Fly
Andrew Woods
Troll Communications, 1992
ISBN: 0-8167-2543-8
As children Orville and Wilbur grew up tinkering with toys and machinery. They were interested in how everything worked. They grew up to invent the first successful motor-powered airplane.

My Brothers' Flying Machine: Wilbur, Orville, And Me
Jane Yolen
Little Brown & Company, 2003
ISBN: 0316971596
There were two older Wright Brothers as well as a little sister, Katharine, born three years after Orville. It is from Katharine’s perspective that Yolen writes. As a reminiscence she includes the important facts and events of the brothers' achievement in flight along with incidentals that provide a window into Wright family life. The illustrations are chock-full of realistic and well-researched detail. The newspaper masthead, "West Side News," is clearly visible in the scene showing the Wrights' printing business. And, although there is no mention of the family love of music in the text, Orville’s mandolin is propped up on a couch near books whose spines contain the names Lilienthal and Chanute, who were contemporary flight engineers and experimenters.

Middle School Books

The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
Mary Kay Carson
Chicago Review Press, 2003
ISBN: 1556524773
Divided into six sections, each with primary source photos and an engaging narrative, the book also features a treasure trove of activities supporting the science of the Wright Brothers’ invention. Boxed descriptions of other early flight pioneers enhance Carson's presentation and situate the brothers within their contextual company. This is a valuable resource for student reports and projects, and for classroom units. The book opens with an extensive time line and has a well-developed glossary, suggested websites, and a list of museums and places to visit to learn more.

On Great White Wings: The Wright Brothers and the Race for Flight
Fred Culick and Spencer Dunmore
Hyperion Press, 2001
ISBN: 0786866861
This is a richly illustrated account of the twelve-second flight that changed the world forever. The authors reveal the brothers’ early interest in technology and flight, recount the trials and errors of other would-be aviators, and explain how the race to be the first man aloft became an international obsession. Readers will learn how The Flyer -- the Wright Brothers' original plane -- was built, and how its inventors solved the challenges that stumped their predecessors. And finally there is the historic flight itself -- what went wrong and what, amazingly, went right -- and the enormous impact the Wright Brothers have had on their own and future generations.

The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
Russell Freedman and Wilbur Wright
Holiday House, 1991
ISBN: 0823408752
Newberry winner Freedman has produced a vivid, well-written biography of aviation’s most famous pioneers. This book focuses on the Wright Brothers in a riveting narrative interspersed with pertinent excerpts from journals, letters, and contemporary accounts. Freedman lays out a clear and compelling history of the early aviation experiments that culminated in the legendary flight at Kitty Hawk. There are ample photos supporting the text, many taken by the brothers in order to better document their experiments.

The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age
Peter L. Jakab and Tom D. Crouch
National Geographic, 2003
ISBN: 0792269853
Crouch and Jakab, curators at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, trace the brothers' lives from their early years in Dayton, Ohio, and the events leading up to the invention of the airplane. The authors describe how the two men spent five years of work on a flying machine before the first flight; their relationship to Octave Chanute, "the grand old man of aeronautics"; their problems in obtaining an engine that met their weight limitation; and the flight itself. With 100 archival photographs, this work offers a visually rich story of early flight.

The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of American Aviation
Quentin Reynolds
Random House, 1981
ISBN: 0394847008
This Landmark biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright provides the factual story of these two famous brothers who changed the course of modern history through their pioneering work in aviation. Following every new invention and twist in the science, they refused to give up their dream of flight. The two self-taught bicycle mechanics built, and successfully flew, the world's first airplane.

High School Books

Kitty Hawk and Beyond: The Wright Brothers and the Early Years of Aviation
Ronald R. Geibert, Patrick B. Noland, and Tom Crouch
Roberts Rinehart, 2003
ISBN: 1570983909
Fascinated with photography, the Wright Brothers kept a careful record of both family and aviation steppingstones. This visually rich book contains more than 100 photographs borrowed from the Wright State University archives. In essence it is a "family photo album" that spans the years from the print and bicycle shops in Dayton to the hills of Kitty Hawk and the business ventures that followed. The post-Kitty Hawk years are particularly revealing as they are often neglected in other sources.

First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane
T.A. Heppenheimer
John Wiley & Sons, 2003
ISBN: 0471401242
Aviation writer Heppenheimer (A Brief History of Flight) definitively establishes a number of crucial facts about Orville and Wilbur that challenge current assumptions. He shows that the brothers were both driven, visionary individuals and careful students of early pioneers in flight technology such as Otto Liliental and Octave Chanute, as well as contemporary rivals such as Samuel Langle and Glenn Curtiss, against whom the brothers brought a legendarily tenacious patent lawsuit. Most important, Heppenheimer not only presents a detailed portrait of the brothers' groundbreaking and painstaking work in the workshop that "was the focus of their lives," but also reintroduces to the historical record their many technological and business adventures after the famous flight at Kitty Hawk.

Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers
Fred Howard
Dover Books, 1998
ISBN: 0486402975
As a former Library of Congress aeronautics editor who worked on the Wright papers, Howard writes from authority. He establishes early on that the Wrights were not mere tinkerers who owned a Dayton bicycle shop but that they had sufficient background in mathematics and physics to be aware of the theory as well as the practice of flight. Much of the book is devoted to the brothers' efforts to market their invention, which proceeded slowly because they were not businessmen, and the difficulties they had with those who asserted that they, not the Wrights, were the first to fly. Throughout the biography there runs the thread of two loving brothers and the warm family life that helped to sustain them in their struggles. Howard describes the technical features of their work in a fashion quite comprehensible to lay readers.

To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight
James Tobin
Free Press, 2003
ISBN: 0684856883
Award-winning biographer James Tobin provides a detailed yet truly exciting tale of the brothers' lifelong effort to stand "against the wave of popular doubt about the possibility of human flight." The book's strength resides in Tobin's careful depiction of the close-knit Wright family and the impact of its ethic-"the Wrights versus the world"-on the brothers, at the same time that he recaptures the personal qualities that were forgotten after they became aviation icons. Tobin presents the intertwining lives of the brothers and an amazing cast of friends and competitors, including such inventors as Samuel Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian and creator of the doomed Aerodrome, and his friend and fellow flight enthusiast Alexander Graham Bell; Octave Chanute, one of the brothers' earliest supporters; and Glenn Curtiss, the brothers' main competitor.

How We Invented the Airplane: An Illustrated History
Orville Wright
Dover, 1988 (reprint)
ISBN: 0486256626
This book chronicles the careers of Orville and Wilbur Wright, drawing upon the writings of the brothers themselves and Fred C. Kelly, their authorized biographer and confidant for more than three decades. It chronicles how the Wrights developed their passion for flying. For example, almost 25 years before Kitty Hawk, a minister named Milton Wright presented them with a model Penaud "helicoptere." As Wilbur and Orville Wright observed, "A toy so delicate lasted only a short time in the hands of small boys, but its memory was abiding." In another place, Orville was asked when he got the biggest "kick" out of the invention of the airplane, was it the first flight? "No", Orville said, "I got more thrill out of flying before I had ever been in the air at all-- while lying in bed thinking how exciting it would be to fly."

image source: http://firstflight.open.ac.uk/images/key_events/w_flyer.gif