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Hats off to STEMmom Darci J. Harland, author of STEM Student Research Handbook.
It can purchased from The NSTA Press Store or from Amazon.

Darci has generously granted NMLSTA permission to post the following activity that you can use in your classroom. Be sure to check out her website for more ideas!

Airplane Lab to Teach Scientific Method
Who doesn’t love flying paper airplanes? And as a teacher with few resources, it also fits the budget! Students make three airplanes and construct the planes with one small gradual modification. Then they test how far each plane travels, compare the results, and then determine whether or not their modification did in fact make the plane go further!

Airplane01

Lab Goals

  • reinforce scientific method (including the accompanying vocabulary)
  • calculating several central tendencies; mean, median, mode, & range–and then determining which best describes the data
  • conducting trials and controlling extraneous variables
  • Dependent and independent variables
  • improving analysis-making skills; admitting possible method error & discussion of confidence of the results

    Materials:
    computer paper
    tape
    scissors
    paperclips
    tape measure
    yard/meter stick or any straight stick (to use if the plane doesn’t land close to the tape measure)
    colored pencils (to decorate: optional)Darci allows her students to chose any type of airplane model they wanted to do this lab (although she does include the basic direction in the student handout “Best Flying Paper Airplane“) The purpose of the first prelab question is to get students thinking about variations of a paper airplane they could make to get the plane to go further. Many student have ideas such as, add weight to the nose (which is why Darci suggests having pennies and paperclips on hand), change the size of the nose, change the width of the wings, but there are many other adaptations students may come up with. Although this lab is simple in its set up and execution; it provides rich discussion opportunities for you to have with your students.

    For additional tips on how to use the lab with YOUR students and for a free downloadable student handout, go to STEM Mom

  • Thanks, Darci!

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