Paper Airplanes

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In this activity, learners explore the properties of paper by constructing and modifying paper airplanes. This guide includes instructions for building a "Nakamura lock" plane, which may be new to learners more familiar with the simple dart paper airplane. Learners trim, or adjust the plane for flight, with the goal of having the plane glide smoothly and gently to the ground, either flying straight or in a gradual curve. Use this activity to help learners explore properties of paper and motion, including kinetic energy, permeability, thrust, lift, and center of gravity.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • Paper (8.5 x 11)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Potential and Kinetic Energy
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Projectile Motion
      • Center of Gravity
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Toys
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Doherty, Paul