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Table of Contents

  1. Lesson Overview
  2. Objectives
  3. Time Allotment
  4. Pre-Loading Activities
  5. Prerequisite Skills
  6. Vocabulary
  7. Materials
  8. NCTM Process Standards
  9. NCTM Content Standards
  10. Aeronautics Content
  11. Classroom Organization Suggestions
  12. Teacher Tips
  13. Accessibility
  14. Additional Activities
  15. Online Resources

Lesson Overview

Amelia Earhart movie: "Gone With the Winds"

The introductory movie provides historical information on Amelia Earhart, an early aviator who set many distance records. Amelia Earhart's last flight was in the South Pacific during her attempt to fly around the world. Unfortunately, she flew off-course while attempting to fly to Howland Island and was never heard from again. The movie describes how Amelia Earhart first became interested in aviation, and explains how to navigate by calculating a true heading, true course, and drift angle.

Drift Angle Activity

Earhart's last flight was described in the introductory movie as focusing on drift angles and how the speed of wind blowing while a pilot is flying will affect his or her true course. In the Drift Angle activity, students are asked to look at a radar screen simulation and help guide Amelia to Howland Island.

Wind speed and direction are given along with true course and the resultant drift angle. Based on this information, students need to determine the true heading by either adding or subtracting the drift angle to or from the true course. The student selects the appropriate true heading (in degrees). The student can investigate the impact of wind speed and direction and the wind correction angle. The student then flies the plane by selecting the take off button and watching the radar screen as the the true heading of the plane is drawn on the screen. In the explore mode, students can repeat the activity with different starting information: wind speed, direction, true course and true heading. At the end of the flight, the plane either lands on the island or drops into the water.

In the challenge section of the activity, students can only change their true heading. The wind speed is varies during the flight, but changes can to be made using the In-Flight Correction to obtain the correct heading. Students are able to make in-flight changes by selecting the pause button and readjusting or recalculating the true heading based on the wind speed and drift angle. The students should discover that a subtracting or adding to their true course to obtain a true heading will cancel out the drift angle.


Time Allotment

Students can preview the historical information section on Amelia Earhart and participate in the activity at least three times during a 30 minute period. The movie itself lasts for 3-5 minutes, although this time can vary depending on the speed of your modem and your Internet connection.

Playing time for the activity will vary based on student comprehension of activity and number of times student repeats activity. Students can also bypass the historical introduction and go straight to the activity.

Pre-Loading Activities

To speed up the loading of the Amelia Earhart movie and drift angle activity, you can use this pre-loading utility. Clicking on this utility will load all the portions of the Amelia Earhart movie and activity into your web browser's cache. Ideally, you should pre-load the movie and activity no more than a day or two before using them with your class. If there are multiple computers being used, then each computer will have to pre-load the activities individually.

If you have problems using the pre-loading utility, you may want to check to see if the cache on your browser is enabled. The cache contains the most recently downloaded files from your browser. Make sure the size of the cache is set to at least 2 MB, although you can set it up to 10 MB if you have the hard drive space. To locate the Cache option in your web browser:

Click here to pre-load the Amelia Earhart movie and drift angle activity (671K).

If there are other classes or students using the same computers between the time you plan to pre-load and the time your students will use the Amelia Earhart movies, you may want to set the cache to a larger size or pre-load closer to the time your students will be using the computers.

Prerequisite Skills



No extra materials are required, although some students may feel the need for paper and pencil, an accessible substitute like MathPad, or a calculator.

NCTM Process Standards

Standard 1: Mathematics as Problem Solving

Standard 2: Mathematics as Communication

Standard 3: Mathematics as Reasoning

Standard 4: Mathematical Connections

NCTM Content Standards

Standard 5: Computation and Estimation

Standard 9: Geometry

Standard 10: Measurement

Aeronautics Content

Class Organization Suggestions

Collaborative groups help with classroom and student management and assist student learning. Optimally, in computer lab settings 2-4 students at one computer support each other and learn effectively.

A script of the movie text is available as a Text-Only screen from the movie page. You may choose to print this out and make copies for your students if you wish to reinforce reading skills or aid those students who have difficulty with oral comprehension.

Teacher Tips

Students will be more successful at this lesson if the concepts are reviewed ahead of time. An alternative would be for a group of students to listen to the introduction, attempt the activity and then complete more research off-line about drift angles, true course and true heading.

Students' decision making process can be noted if students are required to keep track of data given to them in the activity (true course, true heading, wind speed drift angle), what adjustments they made and the impact that created on their flight (land on island or crash).


The movie is set to run in sections, and some sections will begin when the student clicks the "Next" arrow. If the student is unable to use the mouse, the Enter or Return key can be used to trigger the "Next" arrow. The Shockwave movie needs to be in focus for this to work, so if hitting the Enter/Return doesn't seem to work, simply click anywhere on the movie screen to bring the movie into focus.

The activity section of this lesson is accessible through the keyboard. Students can use the spacebar to cycle through all the entry options on the screen which will be highlighted by a small yellow bar next to the option. Students then use the up or down arrows to enter valued or use the Enter or Return key to select an option.

Additional Activities

Students can use the information gathered in the chart described above in Teacher Tips to look for patterns and relationships among the values.

Students can devise an off line activity that demonstrate drift angle and determine methods for correcting drift angle (eg. throw a pingpong ball in front a a blowing fan, throw a ball into wind etc.)

Online Resources

There are many helpful on-line resources listed in our Aeronautics Links page. Some sites directly applicable to Amelia Earhart are:

Kansas State Historical Society, Biographies - Amelia Earhart

A Biography of Amelia Earhart

Earhart Project
TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery), an aviation archaeological foundation, is sponsoring an investigation into Amelia Earhart's disappearance. Much of the information here is speculative, but provides fascinating insight into how archaeologists might go about reconstructing the events surrounding Amelia Earhart's last flight. Students may want to research other sources about Amelia Earhart and compare those with the information found here.