Paper Helicopters

Author: Niamh Brady

Our STEM activity was carried out on 28th April 2020

I am currently teaching my class remotely using the Seesaw application and during the last week of April I assigned my class the following STEM activity – Paper Helicopters which focused on the Strand ‘Energy and Forces’, Strand Unit ‘Forces’.

I made a video which I sent to the children detailing the lesson objectives & desired lesson outcomes.

The lesson plan that I used for this particular lesson can be found here.

First of all, I set the scene and talked to the children about the topic of flight. Some things actually fly while others glide or float. Then I asked them some open-ended questions such as:

  • What do these do – aeroplanes and birds, gliders and flying foxes, balloons?
  • Discuss aeroplanes – how they have to keep moving in order to stay in the air. So how do helicopters stay still in the air?
  • What do sycamore seeds do when they fall off the tree? Describe what happens.

Then I asked some trigger questions about what makes a good helicopter.

  • What do we mean by best? Is it the one that spins the most?
  • Or is it the one that takes longest to fall to the ground?

Finally, I discussed the design. As we’d just covered shapes in class before school closure I asked the children to look for what shapes they could see on their paper helicopter. Could they see edges or corners?

Then we investigated what happened when we dropped different things from a height and observed how they fall. For example, dropping flat pieces of paper and scrunched-up pieces of paper.

I asked the children to begin by using the templates to make paper helicopters and watching them spin as they are dropped.

To develop the lesson further I asked them to modify the designs as per the guidelines in the lesson plan.

The children posted me back videos of their paper helicopter designs. They explained which one was the best and why. They also discussed what happened to their paper helicopter when they made a variation to it.

Finally we reviewed the lesson. I asked the following open ended questions to develop their overall understanding of the activity on ‘Forces’.

  • What did they notice about the spins for each helicopter?
  • Did they spin clockwise or anticlockwise?
  • How can you change the spin?
  • Does the weight (the number of paper-clips on the stem) change the spin?
  • Which combination made the best spinning helicopter?