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Investigative work using unusual paper planes

Dan Hannard, a Physics teacher at Woodkirk High Specialist Science School in UK, shares with us one of his favorite lessons plans on how to make an unusual paper plane and what the students can learn with it.

Do you think you know how to make a good paper aeroplane? The students are encouraged to build a new version of a traditional paper plane – an O-Flier – and explore its features.

Lesson 1
Think you know how to make a good paper aeroplane?

Think again!


  • To choose independent and dependent variables
  • To complete a preliminary test.

Lesson overview:

  • Background and construction
  • Identification of variables, writing plan
  • Field testing

Build and test prototype O-Fliers:

  • 1 group at a time, “Range Pass” needed for 3 min testing. 
  • List factors that may affect the flight of your O-Flier – what will you need to keep the same? What would be good to investigate?

Top Tips!

  • In groups, write down 3 top tips for building a great O-Flier!

Lesson 2

  • To plan an investigation
  • To construct a results table
  • To make a prediction


  • Choose independent and dependent variables (factors to vary and measure, IV and DV)
  • Which variables will you have to control?
  • Prediction – what will happen to the DV when you change the IV, and why?
  • Brief plan – how will you test your prediction?
  • How will you ensure that this is a fair test?
  • What possible sources and types of error could there be?
  • Construct a results table – remember headings and units!

Lesson 3

  • To complete a fair test
  • To analyse results and look for a relationship
  • To evaluate the investigation

Lesson outline:

  • Construction of O-Fliers
  • Testing Fliers in Hall

Testing Guidelines

Flight Report:

  • Results
    – Table (you should already have drawn this)
  • Graph
    – What type of graph is most appropriate?
    – Is there a pattern to your results?
  • Analysis
    – What did you find out?
    – What is the science behind your findings?
  • Evaluation
    – How could the investigation be improved and extended?
    – How precise, accurate and reliable were your results?
    – How was this a fair test, and could it have been made fairer?
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