Paper Helicopter Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students will employ the scientific method to test fall rates of paper helicopters. They will conduct experiments as a class to test their own individual ideas.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Appreciate how the rotor shape impacts fall rate of objects
  • Understand the basic mechanism behind helicopter mobility
  • Design an experiment to test a hypothesis


90-120 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.


  • Blank sheets of paper
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips


  • Begin with a discussion of helicopters.
    • How can helicopters hover in one place, while planes have to stay in motion to remain air born? What feature of the helicopter might explain this? What other technologies use this same feature?
    • Can you think of any examples in nature that do something similar? Have you ever seen a sycamore or a maple seed fall to the ground? What is the advantage of this? How does the seed's shape let it fall differently than other seeds?
  • Explain to students that they will be making paper helicopter-style rotors to test how this shape impacts the way that paper falls.

Make a Paper Helicopter

  • Hand out blank paper, rulers, and scissors to students. Ask them to measure out a rectangle that is roughly 2 inches wide and six inches long. Have them cut out the rectangle. Templates for this can also be found readily online.
  • Ask students to orient the rectangle so that the shorter side is parallel to them, and the long side is perpendicular. Tell them to draw a horizontal line across the middle of the rectangle. Students will divide that line in three, marking the 1/3 and 2/3 points. They will then cut from the edges of the paper inward towards each line. Then, fold each side in, fastening them with a paper clip at the bottom. At this point, the paper should look sort of like an oar- with a wide rectangular top and a thin handle.
  • Ask students to measure one inch above the center line, and to draw another line lengthwise across the paper. From the middle point of this line, students will draw a straight vertical line to the top of the rectangle. Have students make a cut along the vertical line.
  • The top of the rectangle should now have two flaps. Have students bend one towards them and one away from them. They now have a working paper helicopter.

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