STEM Lesson Series 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!

Subscribe to Nerd Alerts!

Join over 2000 other nerds and stay connected. Get updates on our Summer Classes, the new At-Home Lessons, and our new Online Courses coming soon!

Only important news & unsubscribe anytime.

Photos from Nerds

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 All Ages

Science Max: Air and Flight

(22 minutes) – Great and funny episode about the science of flight! Science Max is kind of like an updated “Bill Nye” style show. If you’re short on time, watch this one later.

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!

Support Us with Donations

Thank you so much for your support during these crazy times! You can now support us while we work hard to bring you quality STEM lessons!

Share This Lesson
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Connect with the Nerding Community!

Did you enjoy this lesson? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page! We would love a picture or video of your planes and remember to give another kid some words of encouragement!

6 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for this fun activity! It was a perfect joint activity for my 10, 7, and almost 4 year olds While we at home for e-learning. We watched the video together, they watched their own age appropriate videos, made their own planes and are now running the tests while recording observations! So great to get them outside for a bit too – thank you!

  2. I have been trying to keep my office staff connected while we are all home with fun challenges and this is perfect !! It is something that is fun & will allow employees to include their families! Thanks for the tips !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Policy Cancellation

UPDATE: Coronavirus COVID-19

Due to the current health crisis we have relaxed our cancellation policy for this summer. The health and wellbeing of your child, our staff, and you are of utmost importance. This year we will implement very strict health standards. Any child with flu, cold, or even allergy like symptoms will not be permitted to attend class. We want you to feel confident that if your child is healthy, they will be safe attending class. We also want you to feel confident if your child is sick, you will be refunded or rescheduled with zero hassle.

Standard Cancellation Policy

  1. Full Refund if you give us MORE THAN a 14 day notice from the first day of class.
  2. *No refund if you give us LESS THAN a 14 day notice.

To cancel a class, please click here.