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Swords and Plowshares

Today, I got to experience another first.

I worked with two groups of children and an implement of war that has become one of the devices for physical education – the parachute.

Of course, parachutes existed when I was a child! :-) But the sport of skydiving had its first world championship competition the year I was born. Parachutes themselves have apparently been around since the 1100s in China, and Leonardo da Vinci also invented devices similar to parachutes. A French aeronaut, Jean Pierre Blanchard, claimed the invention of the parachute in 1785. The French inventor, André-Jacques Gamerin made the first parachute drop from an aircraft (gas-filled ballon) in 1797 with a silk parachute that was stiffened with supporting poles. The first limp parachute descent was made by the American, Tom Baldwin, in 1897.

So how did the parachute become a device for physical education? I guess that I don’t know. :-) If you know, please comment! I found this article from 1972 in which kids in New Jersey were using parachutes and balls of different sizes in physical education.

Regardless of the history, parachutes are a lot of fun. If you combine a parachute and a group of second- or third-graders and a few balls of different colors, sizes, and weights, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Some of the possibilities that we explored today were the “popcorn” activities of launching Wiffle balls or colored cloth balls into the air, “pinwheel” activities of rotating the multi-colored (segments were different colors) parachute clockwise and then reversing rapidly to counterclockwise, and then reversing again, a two-team competition to launch a larger ball off the semicircle of the opposing team, and the creation of a tent-like bubble that an entire group of kids could create and maintain by holding the edge of the parachute to the ground, from under the bubble dome. What fun! I even got to be “the bear” that roamed around outside the tent a few times, stopping occasionally to paw at the tent. :-)

As for me, today was my first chance to play with a parachute. One of today’s lessons was that merely doing a new activity can lead to a burst of creative energy – a good thing to remember, from time to time….

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®.  

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