Who doesn't love flying paper airplanes? And as a teacher with few resources, it also fits the budget! Students make three airplanes and construct the planes with one small gradual modification. Then they test how far each plane travels, compare the results, and then determine whether or not their modification did in fact make the plane go further!
This lab has several goals:
- reinforce scientific method (including the accompanying vocabulary)
- calculating several central tendencies; mean, median, mode, & range--and then determining which best describes the data
- conducting trials and controlling extraneous variables
- Dependent and independent variables
- improving analysis-making skills; admitting possible method error & discussion of confidence of the results
- computer paper
- tape measure
- yard/meter stick or any straight stick (to use if the plane doesn't land close to the tape measure)
- colored pencils (to decorate: optional)
I allowed my students to chose any type of airplane model they wanted to do this lab (although I do include the basic direction in the student handout "Best Flying Paper Airplane.") The purpose of the first prelab question is to get students thinking about variations of a paper airplane they could make to get the plane to go further. Many student have ideas such as, add weight to the nose (which is why I suggest having pennies and paperclips on hand), change the size of the nose (like the photo above), change the width of the wings, but there are many other adaptations students may come up with.