Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Paper Airplane Project

Judy Fox
Citrus County Schools


In this lesson, students have permission to make and fly paper airplanes. Have fun while you are teaching the scientific process.


The student plans and investigates experiments in which hypotheses are formulated based on cause and effect relationships; distinctions are made among observations, conclusions/inferences and predictions; a limited number of variables are controlled; and numerical data that are contradictory or unusual in experimental results are recognized.


-A copy of the airplane journal per student--either hard copy or copied onto invidual student group disks (found in associated file)
-An overhead copy of the airplane journal (found in associated file)
-81/2 -X 11- construction paper, one per student.
-81/2-X 11- wax paper, one per student
-81/2- X 11- newspaper, one per student
-81/2-X 11- wrapping paper, one per student
-Notebook paper
-Overhead projector
-Students have access to something hard to write on (example; Clipboard)
-Large paper bag, one per student
-Measuring tape-one per student group


1. Copy the airplane journal one per student or copy the pages of the journal onto individual disks so that students can keep and electronic version. (found in associated file)
2. Make an overhead copy of the airplane journal. (found in associated file)
3. Cut construction paper to 81/2 X 11 one per student.
4. Cut wax paper 81/2 X 11, one per student.
5. Cut newspaper 81/2 X 11, one per student.
6. Cut wrapping paper 81/2 X 11, one per student.
7. Make sure students have notebook paper or scrap paper accessible.
8. Locate the overhead projector.
9. Make sure students have access to something hard to write on and each group has a measuring tape. (example; Clipboard)
10. Purchase or locate large bags, one per group.


Day One

1, Begin class by asking, Have you ever gotten in trouble for making or flying a paper airplane in school? Pause, then continue: Well, over the next two days we will get to do just that. If you do not know how to make a paper airplane then you will learn. Show examples of paper airplane that you have made. Tease the class a little and fly a couple of the airplanes. The project involves trying to decide which type of paper airplane flies the best.

2. Tell the class that they will be doing a project using the paper airplanes.

3. Pass out the airplane journals or individual disks, instruct students to put their names on the journals. (Optional: Journal pages can be copied from the associated file onto individual student disks. Students can then keep their data and type hypothesis, conclusion, etc. into the documents. The graph will need to be printed or duplicated so that students can actually draw their graphs unless your students are familiar with graphing software.) Explain briefly the project. (Put your example on the overhead.) Read over the Problem/Question with the students. (Again show your models so the students can see.) Spend some time answering the two questions.

4. Direct the class's attention to the Hypothesis. Spend some time defining hypothesis: an educated guess. This is like a prediction. Let the class know that we all like to be right all the time but a hypothesis is just a guess scientists do this all the time. You can also discuss inference at this time. When you are finished asked the students to fill in their hypothesis or you may wait until after the discussion and allow students to complete their journals or disks. You may want to model this on the overhead copy.

5. Next instruct the students to flip the page in their journals or display the materials page on the overhead and look at the material list. Explain that a scientist needs to gather all the material before he or she begins a project. You may want to ask: What will happen if a scientist forgets this step? You can also show the class the printed out lesson plan with all the materials listed. Discuss this as a class and together fill in this section of the airplane journal. Optional: Students may complete these parts at the conclusion of the discussion if they are working on computers with disks. (Model on the overhead.)

6. Then tell the class the scientists need to write down exactly what they do so that their experiment may be repeated. You may ask: Why do you think someone would want to repeat an experiment? Again you can show the class the printout of the lesson plan you are using that has a listing of the procedure. Together write down the procedure or allow time later for students to work in groups on the computer or with hard copies of their journals. What will you do first, second, and so on.

7. Direct the students to turn to the next page or look at the next page on the overhead and discus the controls. What do you need to keep the same in this project? Tell students you are creating the controls for this experiment. First the paper should all be the same size, and second the model airplane needs to be the same or the way you fold you airplane needs to be the same. You will need to fill in the Controls in your journal. You may again wish to model.

8. Discuss with the students variable. What is the one thing that we will change each time? Tell student that the type of paper we use, whether it be the newspaper, construction paper, wax paper, or wrapping paper will be the variable or change in this experiment. Go back the Problem/Question on the first page. Review this with the students. This can also be a good time to explain cause and effect. If I change the material of my paper airplane then it may fly farther. Then they will fill in the Variable section in the journal or you can allow time for this at the end of the discussion. If students are working on computers from disks, now would be a good time to allow them to fill in their electronic journals. Remind them to save often. Pair a very computer literate student with one who is has difficulty.

9. Now the fun step, making the airplane. Divide students into groups of two. Explain: Before you make any airplanes you need to discuss again the importance of making the same model airplane (the way you fold) each time. Listed in the Weblinks section are two sites that have diagrams for making different airplanes. (These can be displayed for the whole class or students can be allowed to visit the sites in small groups.) Students may practice folding airplanes with notebook paper or scrap paper. After the student practices and decides on a model he/she need the 81/2 X 11 paper. (wax, newspaper, wrapping paper, and construction paper) At this point they can make all four airplanes. (Some students are already pros with this, others will have no experience making a paper airplane. You may want to put an experienced paper airplane builder with a novice builder or you can go online (see Weblinks) to get some ideas. While students are working on their airplanes be circulating around the class helping students and answering questions. If students finish early they may decorate the airplanes with markers or crayons.

10. At the end of class make sure students have put their names on the airplanes so they are easily identified for the next day. Put the airplanes in a safe place; I suggest a paper bag for each group of students. You may want to call this the airplane hanger. Collect the airplane journals or disks.

Day Two: Flight Day

1. Pass out the journals or disks from the previous day and display the pages on the overhead. Review the termiology from yesterday and allow students to orally review what they did. Have students get out the paper bags with their four paper airplanes. Make sure the students have something hard to write on, a pencil and paper, and a measuring tape. If necessary review how to measure. Tell them today they will fly the paper airplanes outside. Instruct the students to pick a beginning point, stand at the beginning point and fly the airplanes one at a time from this point. Then record the length of flight information. The plane that flies the farthest gets 4 points, second place gets 3 points, third place gets 2 points, and last place gets 1 point. Ask students if this would be a fair experiment. The answer is no. That is why the students need to do this five times, and record five times.

2. Take the class outside and fly their planes. Walk around answering questions and helping where necessary, (One year the weather would not cooperate, so after several day of rescheduling the flights I took the class to the auditorium to fly their airplanes. I do not recommend this but it will work.)

3. Gather students to come inside, allow students to record their data in their journals or on their disks and collect the journals or disks.

Day Three: Compile Data

1. Today the students finish with the journals. The first thing they need to do is total up the points for each of the airplanes. This will determine the winner. The airplane with the most points will come in first place, the airplane with the next highest score will come in second, followed by third, and the lowest number of points will be fourth. The teacher may wish to model this on the overhead.

2. Direct the class to the section of the journal or disk labeled: Written Summary of Results. Have the students write a summary of what happened during the project. While students are doing this, circulate around the room helping where needed.

3. Next direct the students to graph. Tell them they will be making a bar graph of the flights. They need to use the data they collected to complete the graph. The teacher may model this on the overhead. Students working from disks will need to print out the graph page or you may do it ahead of time. You may need to do a quick mini review on creating a graph and why bar graphs will be good for displaying this data.

4. This is a good place to stop, go back and look at the hypothesis. Spend sometime here with the students sharing their answers. It is exciting to see how the students are excited about their guesses. Again explain that it is OK if they guessed wrong. Remember a hypothesis is an educated guess. If they did not prove their hypothesis then they gathered information that may help them conduct another project.

5. Students should fill in the Conclusion in their airplane journals or disks. Was their hypothesis proven or not proven? While students finish this page the teacher needs to be circulate around the room helping where needed.

6. Collect the journals or disks. If some students finish early they may color the journals.

7. Wrap up with a discussion of which type of airplane flew the fartherest and why. Allow discussion but try to come to a class 'conclusion.'


Use the Rubric located in the associated file to assess the student's work of planning and investigating an experiment in which a hypothesis is formulated based on cause and effect relationship, distinctions are made among observations, conclusions/inferences and predictions are created, and a limited number of variables are controlled.


Students could work in groups of four. The group will decide which model of airplane they will make, each student will be responsible to make one airplane. This also helps the students that become frustrated when they are unable to make an airplane. Students could be challenged to do the experiment again keeping the material they use constant but making the design of the plane the variable.

Use a graphing software program to create the graphs. Allow students to do a rough draft and then input the data into the program, print out the graphs and compare them.

Web Links

Web supplement for Paper Airplane Project

This site contains diagrams for creating paper planes.

This site contains diagrams for creating paper planes.
Joe's Planes

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