Flying Into a Problem (1/3)

107 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to gather data and information in order to build a successful paper airplane.

Big Idea

Flight Testing+Designing+Researching+Fun=SCIENCE!


10 minutes

To begin the lesson, I simply ask the children, "Do you know how to build a paper airplane that will travel at least 3 feet?"  

Of course, all of the students raised their hands in excitement, exclaiming "YES!"

I then gave each of the students 10 minutes to construct an airplane and discuss with their partners how they will consistently measure their distance. 

Some of the questions I place on the board for the partnerships to consider are:

  1. What if your plane does not travel in a straight path?
  2. What unit will use you to measure?
  3. Will you use standard, or non-standard units?
  4. What will be your determination of success?

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

In order to allow my students time to gather data, I take them to the empty lunchroom and allow them to fly their planes 3 times. During those flight tests, I ask the children to measure, in their way, the success of their planes. While the students are testing, I ask them to not revise or adjust their models just yet. This is an important teaching move because young scientists need to learn the value of data gathering and testing for consistency.  This will help later when I ask them to pay attention to variables and test for consistency. 

In this clip, you will see the first flight!  Not very successful:(

Active Engagement

25 minutes

I knew that students might have a less than successful flight experience, so I gathered a few resources for them to explore after their initial testing. These links were placed on a tab on the school's iPads. The resources I used are: 

Fun Paper Airplanes

What Makes Paper Airplanes Fly?

How Far Will It Fly?

Best Paper Airplanes


As the students research and revise, I tour the room and ask questions to prompt their thinking and design. However, I do not tell them what to do! Again, this is their learning.  The more I talk, the less they learn. Students deserve an opportunity to make sense of data and design that on their own, based on their work. Creating an opportunity to explore, build perseverance, and to become questioners and problem solvers is covered in my reflection below. 

In this clip, the student pilot is explaining a problem she had with her plane and what she is looking for as a solution. 


Closing and Home Research

10 minutes

To close the lesson, I gather the excited, and somewhat frustrated students, in order to discuss successes and challenges. 

To my delight, many of the students are using the new vocabulary words that they gained from their informational reading (lift, thrust, drag, and weight/gravity). They are excited to share what they found out about revising wing span, width, and flaps. 

After our review, I explain that they are free to use the links on our school site to further research at home.  I then give each student 3 pieces of paper and tell them to design 3 models at home for our challenge the next day, which is to fly their plane 10 yards through a hula-hoop ring!

Everyone is very excited to leave school that day and get to work:)