Values and Attitudes

Values and Attitudes Photo Credit: Science NetLinks


To identify some of the skills and attitudes that are essential for solving problems effectively. 


In this lesson, the Wright brothers' investigation of the principles of flight serves as a model for how individuals should go about answering questions about how the world works. 

Through quotes and artifacts presented on the Franklin Institute’s Flights of Inspiration website, students see examples of the Wright brothers' profound curiosity, openness to new discoveries, persistence, and integrity. Students learn that the Wright brothers were only able to make strides in their research when they abandoned some widely accepted claims about the principles of flight, and began to test the theories for themselves. Through this example and others, students should develop some understanding of the importance of balancing open-mindedness with skepticism in scientific investigations. They will also recognize the importance and impact of the Wright brothers' meticulous record-keeping.

This lesson is designed to introduce students to the important habits of mind that one must develop in order to solve problems effectively. Students should have many opportunities to develop and utilize these skills and attitudes in the context of scientific investigation, as well as within other disciplines.

Planning Ahead

Preview the articles used in the lesson. Print them out ahead of time, if necessary.


To begin this activity, ask students what they know about Orville and Wilbur Wright. What scientific contributions did they make? What qualities did they possess? Record students’ ideas on a class chart. 

Tell students that Orville and Wilbur Wright had no formal science education. How is it that they became leading engineers in flight? Tell students that they will be researching the Wright brothers' flight investigations. As they read, they should look for evidence of the skills that the Wright brothers' used in their approach to problem solving, as well as the personal qualities and attitudes that might have contributed to their success.


Have students read the Airfoil Collection from Flights of Inspiration. Have students read the entire article, paying particular attention to the five quotes from the Wright brothers.  Students can respond to the following questions independently, then share their ideas in small groups and/or in a whole class discussion.

Ask students:

  • What did the Wright brothers learn from the failed flights at Kittyhawk in 1901?
  • What was the importance and benefit of studying the existing scientific data?
  • Why did the Wright brothers ultimately decide to discard this data?
  • What limitations did the Wright brothers find in Professor Langley’s "Experiments in Aerodynamics"? What did they decide to do as a result of coming to this conclusion?
  • To what did the Wright brothers attribute their ultimate success in building a "power-flyer?"

As a class, discuss the steps that the Wright brothers took in approaching the problem. Discuss any skills or attitudes that they exhibited that students consider important for scientific inquiry.

Have students read additional information on the Wright brothers' flight investigations. You may want to have students work in groups of 3-4, using the jigsaw strategy, so that a member of each group is responsible for reading and presenting one of the following articles to his/her group. Or, have entire groups read and present one of the articles to the class. 

Inventing the Future
Have the student(s) read the article and do one or more of the following: 

  • Create a time line of the Wright Brothers’ setbacks and successes for this period. 
  • Review the artifacts included in the article and present them to the class.

Achieving the Dream 
Have the student(s) read the article and do one or more of the following:

  • Present an overview of the four flights. What did the Wright brothers do differently each time? What was the outcome of each flight? Did their flight performance improve? Why or why not?
  • What personal characteristics did the Wright brothers possess? What values and attitudes did they practice? Give evidence to support your ideas.

Convincing the World
Have the student(s) read the article and present the following information:

  • How did the public respond upon hearing of the Wright brothers' first successful flight? What obstacles did the Wright brothers encounter as they attempted to share their success with the public? What evidence did they have to support their claims? 

Review and discuss the following quote from Convincing the World: "As this story about first flight shows, the small objects in The Franklin Institute's collection actually changed the course of human aviation more than the Flyer itself. The objects they used in their pursuit of scientific knowledge ultimately changed the course of human history."

Revisit the artifacts in the exhibit, including The Airfoils, The Wallpaper Notes and The Notebooks

Ask students:

  • Would you agree that this collection of tools, measurements, and drawings changed the course of aviation? If so, how? 
  • What might the impact have been if the Wright brothers did not carefully record their findings? What if they had falsified their findings? What if they had accepted the widely held beliefs at the time, instead of testing their own theories? 


According to Flights of Inspiration, the following quote is carved on a monument constructed in honor of the Wright Brothers’ first flight: "In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith." 

Discuss the meaning of this quote as a class. Ask students what they would write if they were responsible for creating an epitaph for the Wright brothers.


Have your ears ever popped on an airplane trip? The Science Update, Popping Ears, hear explains why it happens.

The Science NetLinks lesson, Inventors and Innovators, explores the scientific enterprise and the contributions of diverse people.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Type Project 2061 Benchmarks State Standards