Taking it Home: Paper Airplane Experiments

In Cool Science this month, we’ve been exploring which shapes fly or glide the best by doing experiments with paper gliders. Also, students from Casco Bay High School were here the first weekend in May to share their paper airplane designs, providing templates and instructions to our young visitors.

Here is a plan for a basic paper glider to use as a starting point. (Click to enlarge) Folding projects like this are often best for ages six and up. For younger children, make a plane together, and then let your child change it as he or she plays.

Paper airplane making is a great example of a project that allows kids to test their predictions using simple materials. There’s no right way to make a paper plane: each one flies differently.

Here’s an example of a prediction: “If I rip one of the wings, I bet the plane will spin in circles when I throw it.” Testing this prediction is so easy: all you do is toss the paper plane and see what happens. The most exciting discoveries happen when the plane doesn’t do what you predicted. For example, one boy who joined the Casco Bay High students for the workshop was trying to make a plane that flew very straight and far, and ended up with one that flipped upside-down almost every time he threw it. We hadn’t even imagined a plane that could flip upside down!

Encourage your children to keep trying new designs, and who knows what they’ll discover …