Children will experiment with paper airplanes.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will experiment with making paper airplanes and discover how their shape makes them fly.


What You'll Need

  • Pictures of a flying bird, a flying insect, an airplane, a jet, and a rocket ship
  • Plain white paper
  • Cardboard
  • Markers and crayons

What To Do

  1. Display pictures of things that fly. Encourage the children to look closely at the pictures. Ask children to brainstorm on what is the same about all of the items (see Did You Know?). Challenge the children to find things that are the same about the various shapes (e.g., all have wings, all have noses or pointy heads).
  2. Tell children that they are going to experiment with paper to make something that can fly.
  3. Pass out a sheet of plain white paper to each child, and ask if the paper will fly. Allow the children to try it.
  4. Pass out the cardboard. Ask if this will this fly, too.
  5. Ask the children what they can do to make the paper fly better. Suggest folding the paper to see if they can make it fly better.
  6. Tell the children to remember something that was the same about the pictures of the flying things, and suggest that they might need to make those same things on their paper airplanes.
  7. Encourage the children to think about how they can fold the paper to make wings (or a nose/pointy head).
  8. Challenge the children to find a way to test their paper airplanes to make sure that they fly.
  9. Tell the children that the paper airplanes need a little help from them to fly - thrust and lift. Explain that the children will need to give thrust to their airplanes by gently throwing them forward. Lift is when the air gets under the wings and pushes it up in the air.
  10. If airplanes do not fly, give children more paper, and let them try again (see Lesson Tips).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • How did we make our paper airplanes fly?
  • What did we have to do to the paper to make it fly?
  • How are our paper airplanes like a real airplane?
  • How does the way the airplane is folded affect how far it flies?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Relate this to the lesson on Rockets. What is the difference between rockets and planes?
  • Try using different types of paper for the paper airplanes.
  • Have airplane races; mark how far the airplanes fly.
  • Which one flew the farthest? What was different about how that airplane was folded that made it fly farther?

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to fold the paper to make an airplane?
  • Could children explain how the airplane flew?


Did You Know?

An airplane flies by moving through the air. How easily a plane moves through the air is called aerodynamics. Wings on airplanes create lift that overcomes gravity and helps them fly. The wings are flat on the top and curved on the bottom. This special shape allows the air to flow faster over the top of the wing than the bottom. The difference in the airflow creates pressure that lifts the plane up in the air. The engine on a plane moves it faster on the ground and gives it more momentum to lift off the ground.

People dreamed about flying for hundreds of years. Some people made artificial wings to try flying, but they were not successful. The first successful airplane flight was in 1903. Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their plane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Although the first flight lasted for only 12 seconds and flew a little over 500 feet, it was the first time a machine had flown while carrying a man.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • airplane – a machine that is heavier than air and that can fly. It has wings and engines.
  • fly – to move through the air by means of wings.
  • wing – a part of the body of some animals that they use for flying.
  • nose – the front part of an airplane or rocket that is shaped like a cone.
  • thrust – to push or drive with force.
  • lift – to move (something) upward; raise.

Lesson Tips

  • If children are having difficulty folding the paper to create a shape that will fly, show them how to fold it. Simply fold the paper in half lengthwise, open it up, then fold two of the corners in toward the middle (making a pointed nose), and refold the paper in half.


  •  Flying by Donald Crews
  • Airplanes by Byron Barton
  • Amazing Airplanes by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
  • Today I Will Fly (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS