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Paper Airplane Science

Paper Airplane Science

May 24, 2024

It is thought the first form of a paper airplane was invented in China around 2000 years ago. Although, it was probably more like what we call a kite now. It was a type of glider made out of bamboo and paper or linen. Today you will make your own paper airplane and test it out!


- Paper

Optional Materials:

- Tape

- Coloring Supplies


1. Fold the paper in half lengthwise.

2. Open the paper, then fold the top corners down to the center crease.

3. Fold the top edges down to the center crease.

4. Fold the whole plane in half lengthwise on the center fold. It should be triangle shaped.

5. About halfway down the open edge, place your finger. Fold the open edge down halfway to the main crease to make a wing. Repeat this step on the other side of your airplane.

6. Optional: Place a piece of tape on the back end of the airplane to help hold it together.

7. Test your paper airplane and see how it flies!

What’s happening?

Paper airplanes fly by balancing four different forces. These forces are called drag, gravity, thrust, and lift. Drag and gravity are two forces an airplane has to overcome. Drag is also known as air resistance, or the air that pushes back against the plane as it moves forward. Gravity is the force that pulls everything down to the ground.


Thrust and lift are two forces that help an airplane stay in the air. Thrust is the force pushing the plane through the air. In this activity, the thrust comes from you throwing the plane. Lift is the force pushing up on the plane. This comes from air going over the wings creating an upward force. When all four of these forces are balanced, paper airplanes fly farther and stay in the air longer.