Paper Airplane Science (SOL 2.1-5.1)

Paper Airplane Science

Teacher Name: Gemma Griffin

Grade Level: 2-5

Subject: Science

Time Frame: 40 minutes

Concept: Scientific Investigation

Topic: Scientific Method


Most students, especially at the elementary level, have not had many concrete experiences that have led to a good understanding of the scientific method and how to set up an experiment, collect data, test a hypothesis, and draw conclusions from their observations, all things which lead them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Goals: The student will use the scientific method to identify a problem, make predictions, identify procedures, gather data, and draw conclusions.

The student will work cooperatively in pairs to conduct investigations.

The student will discover under what influences will paper airplanes fly the farthest.

NSES Standards: Science as Inquiry; Unifying concepts and processes; Physical Science: Air


Science –

2.1 The student will plan and conduct investigations in which:

a) observations are repeated to improve accuracy

b) conclusions are drawn based on observations

c) conditions that influence a change are defined

5.1 The student will plan and conduct investigations in which

a) estimations of length

b) accurate measurements are made using basic tools (meter stick)

c) data are collected, recorded, and reported

d) manipulated and responding variables are identified; and

e) an understanding of the nature of science is developed and reinforced.



The student will be able to identify problems, formulate predictions, carry out procedures, make and assess observations, and construct conclusions using the scientific method during a scientific investigation with paper airplanes, evidenced by completion of a lab write-up. (See student data sheet checklist.)


The student will be able to participate in the oral sharing of experiences with paper airplanes, evidenced by student’s use of prior knowledge in the construction of different types of paper airplanes. (See student data sheet checklist.)


The student will be able to perform a scientific investigation with paper airplanes, by physically testing, and recording in writing, their observations. (See student data sheet checklist.)


Recycled paper

paper clips/beads

tape meters



plastic bags


any other classroom materials students wish to use

Student data sheet

Teacher checklist for data sheet

Advanced Organizer:

(5 minutes)

Fly a paper airplane, and ask students if they’ve ever made paper airplanes, in school or at home. Share experiences. As a class, make a list on the board of things students know about paper airplanes based on previous experiences. (For more advanced students you can ask students what makes a paper airplane fly, introducing physics and energy).

Procedures & Activities:

(20 minutes)

1. Introduce the problem: How can you and your partner construct the farthest flying paper airplane (by farthest this means in a straight line as well) with the given materials?

See materials list for materials available to students. Have students, in their own words, fill in the Problem section of their data sheet.

2. Each student will be given a data sheet in which they will have three trials to test their airplanes. After each trial, they should record how far their airplane flew, using the meter tapes to measure. They may make adjustments and revise their airplane (or construct a totally new airplane) if they wish based on observations made about their airplane during the test flights.

3. Explain to students that flying planes unrelated to trials will be lost to the Bermuda Triangle (the teacher in this case) and the pair will have to forfeit the class race. Before students begin constructing their designs, as pairs, have students, on their data sheet, develop a Hypothesis about what materials will enable the paper airplane to fly the farthest.

4. Students construct their planes, and perform 3 trials, recording their observations (the type of airplane constructed, i.e. paperclip airplane, and the distance it went) in the appropriate space on their data sheet. After the three trials, students will pick their best paper airplane design to enter in a class flight race.

5. Pairs should decide who is going to fly the plane in the contest, and the other partner should stand at the finishing line for the planes.

6. Students who are going to fly the planes should make a line beside one another, standing at opposite ends of the classroom from their partners.

7. The teacher will give the go signal, and students will release their paper airplanes.

8. The partners waiting at the finishing line should assist the teacher in measuring how far their plane went, and record that number on the class line graph (chart paper or chalkboard).


This lesson will differentiate learning style through both auditory and visual aids, as well as through activities that incorporate multiple intelligences through writing, drawing, constructing models, working with together with classmates, as well as individually, in both physical and seated situations. Varying learner levels will be addressed through the heterogeneous pairing of classmates.


(10 minutes)

Class discussion:

Which paper airplanes flew the farthest? Which went the shortest distances?

Have students share their designs if they wish.

As a class discuss what materials/designs allowed the planes to travel the farthest distance? Shortest distance?

Brainstorm other ideas for plane designs based on what they discovered/suggestions for improvements.

Have students in pairs complete their data sheet. At this point all they should have left to write up is their Procedure (what they did) and their conclusion (what they discovered about their airplane in relation to their hypothesis).


See attached checklist.


It’s a bird! No, it’s a Plane!

Problem (What do you want to find out?)


Hypothesis (What do you think is going to happen? What materials do you think will build the farthest flying paper airplane?)


Procedure (Number the steps of what you did during the experiment.)


Results (What did you observe from the experiment?)

Paper Airplane #1 _________________ Distance_______________

Paper Airplane #2__________________ Distance_______________

Paper Airplane #3__________________ Distance_______________

Circle which airplane you entered in the contest.

Record that distance here _______________.


Conclusion (Was your hypothesis correct? incorrect? Did your materials allow you to construct the farthest flying airplane, or were there other materials you could have used that would have allowed it to fly farther?)

Paper Airplane Checklist

Student Names:

The student pair related the investigation to personal

experiences and prior knowledge through oral sharing. _____/5

The student pair identified the problem. _____/5

The student pair developed a hypothesis and made predictions. _____/5

The student pair identified and correctly sequenced procedures. _____/5

The student pair used materials appropriately to construct a paper

airplane and participate in the class investigation. _____/10

The student pair recorded observations. (airplane type and distance flown). _____/10

The student pair used predictions, procedures, observations and class

discussion to draw a conclusion. _____/10


Total: _____/50



Lynchburg, VA 24503

Last modified Thursday November 24, 2011