Kids love making paper airplanes. It’s such a quick and easy way to spend the afternoon. It’s also the perfect STEAM activity. Take your paper airplane making session to the next level by designing a paper airplane experiment.
The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers
In The Great Paper Caper, the trees in the forest are being cut down and the animals want to know why. They hunt for clues and find paper airplanes everywhere. Eventually, they find a bear with a paper making machine. He’s turning all of the trees into paper because he wants to win the paper airplane competition. He apologizes for ruining the forest and vows to plant new trees. This book will encourage your child to make paper airplanes. However, it also brings about the point that we shouldn’t waste paper in the name of paper airplane making. Use paper from the recycling bin or better yet turn your artwork into paper airplanes.
Paper Airplane Experiment
The goal of this experiment is to test different airplane designs.
- Which airplane will travel the farthest distance?
- Which airplane will spend the longest time in the air?
- Which airplane will land closest to a target?
The first step is of course to design and make your paper airplanes.
Kids will need to learn how to make a paper airplane from somewhere.
Parents – this is the perfect time to bring out your favorite paper airplane design from childhood. My best design actually came from a fourth grade student of mine. He showed me how to make the plane and I was allowed to make planes with his design for anyone.
However, I had to promise not to teach anyone else how to make his design. That was years ago, but it’s still my favorite plane design and it’s the one I make for my kids.
My husband has his own go-to airplane design as well.
For our paper airplane experiment, we had my 7 year old choose a few designs from a paper airplane book. We have an old copy of this Championship Paper Planes book. They were particularly excited about the paper helicopter in the book. It spins when it flies.
The World Record Paper Airplane Book is a newer option that’s more accessible.
After creating the planes, Aiden and Lily colored them. Then, we went outside to fly them.
We measured how far each plane traveled. We also recorded how long they flew in the air. The longest hang time didn’t always travel the farthest.
Last, we flew the planes towards a target. (We chose a big rock in our yard.) We measured how close the planes landed to the target. The test was about distance and accuracy.
Could the plane go to where you wanted it to?
Download the Paper Airplane Experiment printable to record the results of your experiment.
When setting up your experiment, it’s important to keep everything constant except for what you are testing.
Make sure you launch the planes the same way each time. We simply threw our planes, but it would also be fun to use a paper airplane launcher like this one from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.
How does changing your design or using different designs affect the results of your experiment?
What Makes This a STEAM Activity?
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. The goal is to connect these subjects together in order to encourage learning and problem-solving.
Science: learn about flight (Read a book about flight for more information.) and design an experiment.
Technology: use a timing device (stopwatch, mobile phone) to time how long the plane flies; record video of the planes flying to learn more about their flight
Engineering: design the plane and make changes to get it to fly better
Art: design the plane to be aesthetically pleasing and use different art techniques/materials
Math: use a ruler to help fold the plane; measure the size of the plane; measure the distance traveled
Related Article – Pie Tin Boat Challenge for Preschoolers
This post is part of the Storybook Science series. Science ideas inspired by children’s books are being shared each day of March. This week’s theme is STEAM. Be sure to check out all of the Storybook Science posts at Inspiration Laboratories.
More Storybook Science Series Posts on Rainy Day Mum:
- Rock Pooling with Kids with Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson
- Sea Turtle Conservation with Into the Sea by Brenda Z Guiberson
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