Free STEM Lesson

Lesson 1: Paper Airplane Challenge

For Grades: K-6

Step 1 - Introduction

6 min

Lesson Overview

I love paper airplanes! Do you?!

In today’s lesson, we will fold and adjust planes to try and make them fly as far as possible. Watch the videos to become an expert plane folder and learn about the forces that make your plane SOAR!

John Collins (the guy in the 2nd video below who folded the World Record plane) says that people think they don’t know how to fold a good paper airplane, but they are WRONG. They just don’t know how to ADJUST a paper airplane!


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Step 2 - Learn More

30 min
For Grades K-2

SciShow Kids: How to Make a Paper Airplane

(4 minutes) – This video has instructions to build a basic plane and also talks about the science of flight!

For Grades 3-6

WIRED: World Record Paper Airplane

(11 minutes) – John Collins, who folded the world record distance airplane, talks about how he folds airplanes to fly in different ways! So fun! He even walks you through step-by-step how to fold the world record plane.

For Grades 3-6

Science Max: Paper Airplane

(12 minutes) – Walks you through folding an awesome paper airplane.

Step 3 - Your Project


The Paper Airplane
STEM Challenge!

  • The Challenge: Build a paper airplane that flies as far as possible!
    • Collect materials:
      • Paper – regular boring copy paper is usually the best, but experiment with any kind of paper
      • Measuring tape
    • Fold a paper airplane!
      • Use the videos above OR fold your own design
      • Remember that folding paper airplanes can be tricky. Go slow and make sure you line edges up carefully!
    • TEST:
      • Set up your measuring tape (Outside if you can!)
      • Make a chart to track your data. Include a column for:
        • Distance
        • Observations
        • Change
      • Throw your plane!
      • Observe flight – Does it fly straight? Does it curve up or down? Does it spin? Write it down on your chart.
      • Measure distance and record on your chart
      • Make a change! (refold, flatten, bend a wing, add a paperclip, fix a crease, change how you throw, etc.)
      • REPEAT – Continue to improve your airplane to maximize your distance.
  • Work on this for at least 20 minutes! If you want to, fold another plane!


Step 4 - Share

10 min

Share with someone you love!

Share with someone you love! Today’s recommendation is to call a grandparent (or older family member) that doesn’t live at your house, and tell them about your project!

  • Possible things to talk about:
    • What did you learn?
    • What did you build?
    • What problems did you run into?
    • How did you solve them?

Step 5 - Go Deeper


Extension Activity: Trick Planes

Are you REALLY into this? Here’s 5 more planes to fold that do tricks! They are HARD. You’ll need to pause the video at every step to keep up!

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Nerdy Comments!

Did you enjoy this lesson? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page! We would love a picture or video of your project builds and remember to give other nerds out there some words of encouragement!

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