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Flight Projects for Elementary Students


Looking for something engaging? How about 3 STEM challenges featuring experiments and using test results to create the ultimate flying machine!

I know I say this all the time- but when I place the word “Airplanes” or “Helicopters” or “Hoop Flyers” on our agenda board the kids are immediately engaged. They love to fly anything. So, let’s fly away with these 3 flight projects!

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that Amazon will pass on small percentages to me with your purchase of items. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

Flight Projects – Experiment and Design

Each of these challenges features experimenting before designing. It is a fantastic way to combine the Engineering Design Process and the Scientific Method. I do feature using variables in each of the resources!

Flight Project- Hoop Flyers

This is a challenge my third and fourth graders really enjoy. They build those funny little contraptions and throw them. You would be surprised at how well they fly.

The challenge begins with experimenting and we change one variable at a time to test the flights.

The students throw the device, measure its distance, and repeat.

Data Keeping

I start this experiment with every team building the same device and we learn to measure the distance and record the data.

Then we change one thing about the device. The first test is with a one-inch wide paper roll. (The roll on the end of the straws) Next, we try a wider roll. And we talk a lot about why we are changing only one variable.

I use a neat little process for recording the data. We record all the device measurements and highlight the ONE thing that was changed. This helps the third graders understand that we can only test one thing at a time.

After testing for one class period, the students then analyze their data. Which size paper worked best? What kind of paper worked best? What length straw worked best? The challenge is to design the ultimate hoop flyer by combining the best features.

I love this challenge so much- just for all the math that is involved. We measure, plot data, average distances, and analyze the data. And we throw a lot of hoop flyers.

Flight Project- Helicopters

Paper helicopters is another great flying challenge. Students build a twirly-bird with one piece of paper that is bent into the shapes you can see in the photo. When this is dropped it twirls in a circle- like a maple leaf seed pod.

This challenge does not have a measurement aspect. Instead, we rate the flights based on a rubric. Students can then take a look at their data.

By looking at the flight ratings they can determine what size worked best, what kind of paper worked best, and how much added weight worked best. The challenge is to design and decorate the ultimate helicopter.

Flight Project- Paper Planes

Oh, how my fourth graders love paper airplanes. This event begins with a free throw event. Build a plane and fly it! That’s all.

The main purpose of the free throw time is to find the best thrower in your group and the person who can fold the best plane. Part of the controlled variables for the experiment is to have only one person making the plane and one person throwing the plane.

Students throw planes for the experiment using a measuring tape on the floor as their “runway”. We measure and add five flights to average the distance for each kind of plane. After flying the control plane (a plain plane) students may modify the plane by changing ONE thing. Then they fly it five times and average the distance. We repeat this several times.

The challenge is to design the ultimate paper airplane by choosing the best parts of each flight test.

Of course, all these challenges culminate with a flight contest. Every team throws their hoop flyer, helicopter, or airplane to find the one model in the class that is the champ. So exciting!

I know your students will love designing these flying machines! You will love all the information and data-keeping pages made for you!

Click on any image to see more details!


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