Make A Paper-copter: A STEM Activity 

After I read the book How Do Helicopters Work?  by Jennifer Boothroyd I had my students make a paper-copter as a STEM activity. The book is a non-fiction easy reader book that gives your students the facts about how helicopters work. Readers can learn about how helicopters get in the air and how they steer and land. The text also covers information such as how helicopters can hover, how pilots control helicopters and fun facts such as helicopters are multi-directional. The pages are full color, with images, large font, and sidebars. The Accelerated book level is a 2.9, however, both younger and older readers interested in flying will like this book.

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 copy of the paper-copter pattern for each student.
  • Scissors
  • Paperclips

Teacher Prep:

  • Make a copy of the paper-copter pattern for each student on regular copy paper. 


How to Make: 

To assemble the paper-copter cut on the solid lines and fold on the dotted lines. When folding, section A should fold forward and section B should fold backward to make blades. Sections C and D will fold towards each other. After C and D are folded experiment with folding up the tail to different lengths and slide paper clip on the tail. (See picture below.)

Flying Your Paper-copter

  • The goal is to keep your paper-copter in the air for as long as you can. 
  • Try standing on your playground equipment and drop your paper-copter. 
  • Drop it at least 3 times and observe what happens.  

Redesign Your Paper-copter 

Now have your students redesign their paper-copter. Ask them to think about what they observed when they dropped it. How well did their paper-copter work? What changes can they make in the design to make their paper-copter stay in the air longer? 

Have your students draw their new design and then make a new paper-copter. 

Extra Credit:

For students that need a little extra, I have them answer the following questions.

  • What changes did you observe when you redesigned your paper-copter.
  • What caused your paper-copter to stay in the air? 

Try your design with different types of paper. Does printer paper work better than construction paper?

Wrapping It Up: 

Once students get the hang of folding their paper-copters they can make their own designs and they don’t need a pattern. The measurements are flexible and they just need to try and see what works. I’ve used this STEM activity in a whole-class setting, but I’ve also sent home the instructions, the pattern, and paper clips and had students make them at home. If you need the printed instructions or a pdf of the pattern check out my teacher pays teacher site. This activity is part of a series of STEM activities that I do with students that are based on children’s picture books. 


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