Parachutes are an excellent way to develop strength, endurance, and work on team-building skills with younger students. Below you’ll find my parachute team building lesson for K-3, although many of the activities can be used with older elementary students as well. Enjoy!
Today we are going to work as a parachute team. There is actually a special team of volunteers from all the different branches of our military called the Para-Commandos that do some amazing things to help others by jumping out of airplanes using a parachute. When teams of Para-Commandos jump out of airplanes with parachutes they must have everything done correctly and work together to keep everyone safe. Today we will not be jumping out of an airplane, but we will be working together as a team to play some fun games and perform some amazing activities with a giant parachute.
Team Command practice:
Leader says – Parachute Team ………… students respond – Ready!
Leader says – Para ……….students respond – Commandos!
(team always responds together as one voice at the same volume as the leader, all movement and noise stops, and eyes on leader)
Leader says – Freeze…….students respond by stopping all movement and holding parachute still, looking at the leader.
Leader says – Pretzel Style Sit ……… students respond by sitting pretzel style on the ground, not touching the parachute.
Set Up: Students holding the parachute with both hands and spread out around the parachute with 1 to 4 students per color spot. Try to have the same amount of students in each color spot.
Parachute Activities or Missions:
1. Test the parachute:
Students shake the parachute at waist height and on the word “Freeze” hold the parachute absolutely still. Pretend to test to see if the parachute is strong enough and if we have the teamwork to move to the next mission.
2. Team circle:
Students walk in a circle while holding the parachute. Teach clock-wise, counter-clockwise, switching hands, hold high, hold low, fast, slow, and medium speed walking. Teach locomotor skills such as skipping, galloping, sliding, hopping, and jumping. Teach backward walking too. Use “Freeze” each time before giving directions.
3. Build an Igloo:
Students work together to lift up the parachute on the leader’s command in order to create an igloo. Students must lift it up together and go under the chute while holding onto it. They must then sit down on the chute. On the leaders command, students will slide with the chute under their bottoms toward the center at the same speed. (Once the igloo is made, this is a great time for a short story or further directions about upcoming missions.)
4. Training Day:
Students work together to do 5 burpees while holding onto the parachute. They could also work together to do arm curls (elbows against body and do arm curls while holding the parachute). They could do sit ups together while legs are under the parachute. They could also ride their bike by putting their legs under the parachute as they hold it. They would then pretend to peddle their bike with the bottom of their shoes hitting under the parachute (work on slow up hill, and fast downhill).
5. Giant Mushroom Creation:
Students lift up the parachute on leaders command. After it is lifted up, leader says “walk in” and students all walk in 5 steps together with hands up. This will have the parachute form a giant mushroom in the air. Leader then says “walk out” after holding the mushroom for a few seconds. Try to make several successful mushrooms in a row.
6. Bat Cave Exploring (and Mountain Climbing):
On leaders command “up,” all students lift parachute up and then lower to belly level and shake it with both hands. While the parachute is up, the leader calls out one of the colors of the parachute. Everyone on that color must squat down and walk under the chute following the color and exiting the exact opposite side of the parachute. The parachute is shaking like bats are flying over their heads. Students must walk (no running allowed) with hands out in front to make sure they do not bump into anyone else. Once a student exits the chute on the opposite side, they must turn to their right and return to their original spot going around the parachute clockwise. After all students are back at their spots, the leader can call a new color.
7. Mountain Climbing (for 2nd grade and older):
Same thing as Bat Cave Exploring, except after raising the parachute up students bring the chute to the ground and kneel on it. This makes the parachute into a giant mountain. The leader than calls a color and those students must cross the chute on the top of it and exit on the opposite side. Students must walk slowly and carefully, trying to stay only on their color as they cross. If a student falls or touches their knees to the ground, they must do 10 jumping jacks right where they are and then continue to cross. After exiting the parachute, students again turn to the right and return clockwise to their original spot. Once both Bat Cave Exploring and Mountain Climbing have been taught they can be used as a game mixing up which one is called to make students listen and problem solve what they need to do.
8. Cats and Mice:
One to five students are assigned to be the mice (crawling under the chute), and one to three students are assigned to be the cats (must crawl carefully on top of chute – no standing). Everyone else is a shaker, shaking the chute close to the ground while the cats hunt the mice. If a cat tags a mouse (through the parachute) the mouse is eaten and must go and switch places with a shaker who has not been a mouse yet. When a cat has eaten (tagged) 3 mice, he/she must trade jobs with a shaker who has not been a cat yet. Students are encouraged to be honest and to trade jobs on their own, working on integrity and accountability.
9. Raise the Roof Dance Partner:
On leaders command “up,” all students lift the parachute up and then hold it up over their heads tightly with both hands. While the parachute is up, the leader calls out one of the colors of the parachute. Everyone on that color must go under the parachute and dance (playing music during this time makes this activity much more fun). As the chute begins to lower the dancing students must try to raise the roof with their hands as they dance. When the music stops (usually 15 -20 seconds), students must exit quickly to their original spot. This same procedure is done for each of the colors.
10. Stuffed Animal Launch Game:
Pregame Directions: A large stuffed animal is placed on the center of the parachute. On the leaders command “up,” all students lift the parachute up slowly and when it is all the way up the leader gives the command “POP!” All students bring the parachute down with force quickly. This will make the stuffed animal pop up in the air. After practicing this so the team can do it successfully, begin the game.
Game Rules: Place five large stuffed animals on the parachute. All students pick a stuffed animal and point to it. Leader uses commands to “POP” the parachute and the animal that flies the highest is the winner. If a student picked the winning animal, they get to skip around the parachute celebrating as a victory lap. If a student did not pick the winning animal, they must perform 3-5 push-ups and get ready to go again. Students must then all pick a new animal and point to it. After everyone has chosen a new animal the leader has the team “POP” again and this repeats over and over.
Variations: Do a different fitness activity instead of push-ups. Do a different locomotor skill for the victory lap. Change stuffed animals.
Four students sit on the middle of chute and the rest of the students run around the circle holding the parachute and making the 4 students turn like on a merry-go-round. Trade jobs so all students get a turn to ride.
12. Parachute Cover-Up:
Students lift up the parachute as high as they can reach on the leaders command and then step forward two steps toward the center. After it is lifted up, the leader says “let go” and students all let go of the chute. Students must then stand still like their feet are glued to the ground. The parachute will float and land on some students. The object of activity is to test the self-control of students to see if they can all stand still like a manikin until the leader says to move and grab the parachute again.
Variations: If parachute lands on you do 10 jumping jacks, but if you move after the release of chute do 20 jumping jacks.
13. Big Turtle:
Students on their hands and knees under a large “turtle shell” and try to make the turtle move in one direction. Students have to work together to get the turtle to move.
14. Ball Chaser Challenge – (10 – 20 balls needed – beach balls work best)
Students are all given numbers so they are split up into teams of 4-6 students. The students’ job is to hold the parachute with two hands and shake the chute to get the balls to fly off the parachute. If the shakers get all the balls off the parachute, they win. The team chosen to be the ball chasers back away from the parachute and must work together to throw the balls back on the parachute. After 30 – 50 seconds of shaking and ball chasing, put all the balls back on the parachute and a new team is chosen to be ball chasers.
15. Lifeguard Game:
Three students are chosen to be sharks to go under the parachute. Two to three students are chosen to be lifeguards and must back away from the parachute. All other students are swimmers sitting down with legs under the chute and holding it with both hands, shaking it like waves in the water. If a shark grabs the ankles of a student, the student must let go of the parachute, lay back reaching their hands up, and call for a lifeguard. If the lifeguard does not get to the student before their head is pulled under the parachute, then they will become a shark too. If a lifeguard does get to them and begins pulling them out, the shark must let go and move on to attach another swimmer.
16. Superhero Cape
Three to five students are chosen (standing next to each other) to be the superheroes. All students lift up the parachute as high as they can reach on the leaders command. After it is lifted up, leader says “superheroes fly” and students all let go of the chute except the assigned superheroes. The students who let go of the parachute must turn and run back away from the parachute. Students who are the superheroes hold the parachute behind their neck like holding their cape and run straight to the other side of the gym. This will cause the parachute to fly behind them like a cape. The leader then picks new superheroes and repeats this procedure again, going to the other side of the gym.