• Building flying objects with paper is a fun activity that will test students’ understanding of the principles of flight. It can also stimulate their ability to plan and solve problems. 
  • Each student can make use of a few sheets of recycled paper in order to complete two projects: one designed to cover long distances, and one capable of changing direction and flying through two circles. 
  • For the first challenge you will need enough space to measure the total length covered by the flight paths of the aircrafts. Indoors spaces are preferable to avoid wind or rain. Each participant can be allowed a few attempts, and finally the best results are recorded: which shapes allow for the longest flight? How come the ones shaped like an arrow aren’t the winning ones? 
  • For the second challenge we will hang two circles with a diameter of about one meter. The first is located a few meters from the launch point, the second a few meters away and further to the right or left. That way, the plane will have to change direction to go through the second circle. You will have to think of a way to design an aircraft that has the ability to change direction. To achieve this, each participant will be allowed several attempts and possibilities to modify the aircraft. 
  • While the students are busy with their project, it may be helpful to offer some suggestions that will allow for the longest possible flight. For example, each fold in the sheets should be made by pressing hard, and the wings should be as symmetrical as possible. 

How to Build a Glider 

Let’s try to build special gliders with round wings. Will Bernoulli’s Principle allow them to fly like regular gliders? 

Materials Needed: 

  • Paper 
  • Scissors 
  • Adhesive tape 
  • Straw (about 20cm) 


  • Make two loops with the paper, one larger than the other. Overlap the ends leaving enough space to insert the straw. Secure the ends with adhesive tape. 
  • Push the straw into the overlapping space that closed each ring. The larger ring goes behind, the smaller in front. 
  • Launch the glider gently with a horizontal movement. 
  • Experiment with the placement of the rings. Does anything change if they are placed farther forward or backward? What if the position of the rings on the straw is inverted?  
  • Round wings function just as well as flat ones. The air flows more rapidly over the wing rather than under it. This difference in air pressure creates a stronger force under the wing which pushes the aircraft upward. 

Who will be able to make the glider travel the greatest distance? 

Materials Needed: 

  • A plastic bag or other lightweight material 
  • Scissors 
  • A roll of sewing thread 
  • A small object that acts as a weight, like a small action figure  


  • Cut out a large square of plastic or other light material. 
  • Cut the corners to create an octagon (eight sides). 
  • Make eight small holes near the edge of each corner. 
  • Attach 8 small strands of thread, all the same length, to each of the holes. 
  • Tie the ends of each strand to the action figure you will use as a weight. 
  • Use a chair or find a place high off the ground from which to drop the parachute and test its operation. Remember, it must fall as slowly as possible. 

What happens? 

In theory, the parachute should descend slowly and allow the weight to land smoothly. When you drop the parachute, the weight pulls down on the threads. This opens up the large piece of plastic which then uses the air resistance to slowly descend. The larger the area of ​​the plastic, the greater the resistance and the slower the descent of the parachute. 

Creating a small hole in the middle of the parachute allows air to pass through it rather than flow from the side; this should help to stabilize the descent of the parachute. 

An important concept regarding flight has to do with rapidly displaced air and the consequent reduction of the pressure around it. 

If the air pressure is higher underneath a moving object, an upward force is created that will cause it to take off. 

The shape of the helicopter that we will try to build can also be found in nature. Many seeds have “wings” so they can glide in the air and have a greater chance of germinating. An example is the seed of the Sycamore tree. 

Materials Needed: 

  • Paper or cardboard 
  • A ruler 
  • A pencil 
  • Scissors 
  • A stopwatch 
  • Paper clips 

A box that will serve as a landing spot 


  • Cut a piece of paper or cardboard about 2 x 20 centimeters in size. 
  • Fold it in half, then fold and cut the ends to form a T. 
  • Attach a paper clip to the bottom of the paper helicopter to maintain its shape as it falls. 
  • Climb onto a chair (be careful of course), drop it from a height over your head and you should see the spiral motion as it falls. 
  • If you have done a good job, the wings should rotate rapidly creating an upward force. This should allow for a slower rate of descent. 
  • Try building paper helicopters with small variations to see how this alters the speed at which the wings spin and the rate of fall. What happens if you shorten the length of the wings?