Tips for a Successful PE Parachute Lesson


** This blog is being shared to provide activity ideas for future use. Gopher strongly recommends following your district, state, and CDC guidelines for practicing safe Physical Education during the pandemic.

When a family or group of friends gather for a meal, they often sit around the table, share stories, laugh, and smile.  When you gather around a parachute with your class, this has a similar feeling. In fact, this is probably the one activity when you can see the faces of each participant throughout the entire activity.  This enables you to see every smile, enjoy the laughter, and hear the deafening screams as they shake the parachute!

A well-structured parachute lesson allows students to follow directions, work as a team, and have fun!  And yes, they can get their heart rate up while shaking and giggling!

What Size Parachute is Best?

Gopher has parachutes available in 7 different sizes ranging from 6’ in diameter to 45’ in diameter. If the parachute is too small, it will limit the number of students who can use it and type of activities that you can do. If your parachute is too large, students will have a difficult time creating waves and lifting the parachute above their head during various activities.

A 24’ diameter parachute (20 handles) is just the right size for one of my classes! Whenever I share a gym and team teach, we try to have a 24’ parachute on each end of the gym, one for each class.

Parachute Tip:  Try to have no more than 2 students per each color panel of the parachute.

Advice for Giving Instruction:

When students first enter the gym and see the parachute, they get really excited. It is important to share safety instructions and expectations before doing any parachute activities.

During this initial part of the lesson, I ask the students to sit around the perimeter of the gym, away from the parachute, so they are not temped to touch it.

Safety & Expectations:

Here are some safety guidelines and lesson expectations that I share with my students:

  • Follow all teacher directions
  • Do not walk on the parachute
  • Hand grip – hold the edge like riding a motorcycle
  • Kneeling Parachute Rest (students kneel and lay the parachute across their lap)
  • Standing Parachute Rest (students stand and hold the parachute at their waist)

Tip for sharing instruction:  Using a microphone when teaching can help project your voice over the noise of some parachute activities.

Basic Teaching Progression:

I like to start with basic items and then build in complexity.  This allows me to gauge how well they are following directions and pace the lesson accordingly.  I also relay that the more they are on task then the more activities they will be able to complete.

Please note, these are items I have observed throughout my career and you may call them by a different name.

Parachute Activities:

  • Merry-Go-Round (walk in a circle clockwise or counter-clockwise)
  • Slow waves (slowly move arms up and down)
  • Fast waves (vigorously shake arms up and down)
  • Umbrella (raise the parachute above the head)
  • Mountain (like umbrella but then pull it to the ground and place your knees on top of the parachute)         
  • Explorer (as the students do slow waves, call one color at a time to crawl around underneath)
  • Volcano (place soft or yarn balls on the parachute and then execute a mountain)
  • Igloo (like a mountain but sit underneath and tuck the edge of the parachute underneath you)

There are other fun and exciting activities that you can do with your classes such as punching bag, climb the mountain, and surfing.

Storage tip: Have you ever tried stuffing your parachute in the original bag that it came from? It’s nearly impossible! I’d recommend getting a larger mesh bag and using that for storage instead.

Continue the conversation:

What do your students love about using parachutes in PE? What are some of your favorite parachute activities to do? I would love to hear them. Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Related Articles:
Unique Ways to Use Parachutes in PE By Derek Severson
3 Parachute Games Your Students Will Love! By Shannon Jarvis Irwin
5 Must-Haves for Elementary PE By Jason Gemberling

Related Equipment:

2 Responses

  1. Kids love the parachute. I haven’t been able to do it this year because of covid and social distancing rules. All good ideas in lesson above. I have another question related to PE. I saw those big inflated balls in this lesson that look like the omnikin. Balls. I got one discounted at the PE conference a few years back in Birmingham, Alabama. It got a whole in the bladder the first time I used it. Was very expensive. I haven’t had any luck with the company replacing it. Anyone else have any advice? The little patch doesn’t work, Thanks!

    1. Hi Patricia, thank you for your comment! If it is an OMNIKIN ball, you can replace the bladder and it’s pretty affordable.

      I’d recommend looking at the cover to see which product you have. Gopher also offers cage balls, which are a little heavier. Those include a different bladder so it’s important to double check your ball to make sure you’re purchasing the correct bladder and size.

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