Paper airplanes a great way to get students interested in STEM. They’re also a lot of fun!
Learning how to make a paper airplane is also a great way for your child to learn about shapes and symmetry, while also developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. You can fly them indoors (usually) and in confined outdoor spaces like backyards, driveways, or on the sidewalk.
The Science of Paper Airplanes: Aerodynamics
The air around you is one thing that helps a paper airplane fly. When you move your hands through the air, you are able to feel the air on and around your hands, like you’re slicing right through it. Your hand is able to move more easily through the air at certain angles. The aerodynamics of a paper airplane will determine the distance and ease at which it flies. The aerodynamics of the plane will need to have little drag and be light enough to defy gravity. Paper airplanes also use the forces of lift and thrust. When these four forces are used in balance, paper airplanes will fly longer. Many people do not consider the science behind what makes a paper airplane fly, but this can be a great way to help kids not only learn but enjoy science.
Things to think about:
- Why do some airplanes fly better than others?
- How do different papers affect the flight? Are different papers easier to work with?
- Why do some papers work better than others?
- Based on how well your planes flew, can you explain how planes fly?
- Build a paper airplane launcher!
- How to fold the world record paper airplane!
- More paper airplane designs
- National Air & Space Museum – Exhibits on Aviation
- Watch this paper airplane fly over 100 feet!
4 paper airplane designs you can print out and try: