It’s no coincidence that today also happens to be the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday. Together, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright invented, planned and built the world’s first successful airplane! The Wright brothers spent almost 10 years researching and testing different kinds of flying machines until they flew for the first time in 1903. They were so successful because they conducted lots of experiments, learned from what didn’t work and most importantly, never gave up!
Do you want to test airplane models out, just like Wilbur and Orville did? You might not be able to fit a real plane inside your house, but you can make paper airplane models and conduct your own experiment to find out what flies the best. Do designs with long wings fly fast? What about round wings? Can you launch an airplane with a paper clip? There are 3 different paper airplane activities below that are sure to spark curiosity in any budding aviator, no matter his/her age! (Materials needed are listed with each activity. Make sure to have a parent helping out at all times!)
Experiment: The Bulldog vs. the Harriet
Materials: At least 2 sheets of paper (the sturdier and more colorful, the better!).
Do it! : Watch this video below from lessonslearntjournal.com and learn how to fold two easy airplane models, the Bulldog and the Harriet. Make predictions on which will be faster, or fly for the longest distance. Record your guesses in a science journal, if you want!
Experiment: Can circles be wings?
Materials: 3 strips of sturdy paper (about 5 inches by 1 inch) and 1 straw per airplane.
Do it! : Use these instructions on the DIY Network below to make a plane that has circles as wings! While you are making it, talk about what you think will happen. Will it fly straight? Should the straw be on the bottom of the plane or the top? After you try it, record the differences in flight patterns of the first two planes vs the straw plane.
Experiment: What makes a good plane launcher?
Materials: Paper plane (one with flat wings, like the Bulldog), paperclip, tape, large rubber band (or many bands tied together the make a long one) and a launchpad (the legs of an upturned dining chair work well).
Do it! : Grab your adult helper and ask them to unbend the paper clip until there is a V shaped hook at one end.
Lay the unhooked end of the paper clip into the middle fold of your plane and tape it securely so your hook is facing down. Fold the plane back up.
Turn a chair over and loop the ends of your rubber band chain around the 2 back legs of the chair so the band is going between the legs.
Hook the paper clip onto the rubber band, pull back and let it fly! (Make sure you have plenty of space, these planes fly fast and far!
(Note to parents: the small forward fold on the bottom of the Harriet creates a lip that catches on the rubber band during the launch. If you unfold the plane a bit so the bottom is smooth, the launch goes much better! The Bulldog should fly fine as is.)
Once you get the hang of it, see just how far your plane can go. Does angling the plane upwards make it go farther? If you have a measuring tape, you can use it to measure your plane’s flight! Write your measurements down in your journal so you can compare the distances.
We hope you enjoyed being an aviator for the day. Our office sure did!