It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a paper airplane

East Elementary School students learn about birds by building paper airplanes

East Elementary School students create paper airplanes while learning about how birds fly. (Photo courtesy of Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – What better way to learn about birds than by exploring how they take flight? That was the focus of a recent East Elementary School project, as fourth grade teacher Jada Mitchell tasked her students with creating paper airplanes to spread their wings in thinking about flight from a new perspective.

“We have been learning about the structures and functions of living things. Students’ objective was to create a paper airplane that would take flight much like a bird,” Mitchell explained. “The airplane was representing the wingspan of a bird. Our paper airplane lesson was so much fun.”

Students used paper, straws, tape and scissors to craft their airplane designs.

“Once they flew their planes, they had the opportunity to critique their work and make changes for a more successful flight,” she said. “We have previously learned about the internal structures and functions of the human body so it was fascinating to see the connections that were being made with background knowledge and new learning.”

One of the biggest discoveries, which also helped bring the bird lesson to life, was that adding a straw to the middle of an airplane proved a “game-changer” for student designs.

“Students discovered that the straw is hollow much like a bird’s bones,” Mitchell explained. “Therefore, they were able to conclude the reason for the speed and height of a bird’s flight. I love sitting back and watching students discover through their own learning.