After reading Oliver Jeffers The Great Paper Caper my students spend some time doing a STEM paper airplane activity. The Great Paper Caper is a perfect book to have in your Makerspace. Something strange is happening in the forest. The animals are concerned because someone has been cutting down all the trees. After a careful investigation, bear confesses he is the culprit. Bear has been cutting down the trees to make paper airplanes. He wants to win the annual paper airplane contest. The animals help bear with his paper airplane and bear in turn learns about taking care of the forest and recycling.

Questions to Ask Your Students

Have you ever flown a paper airplane? Sometimes it flies straight up, does a loopy-loop, flips over, and dives straight into the ground. Other times it loops and twists through the air and then lands soft as a feather. 

  • What keeps a paper airplane in the air?
  • How can you keep your paper airplane in the air longer?
  • Can you control its loops or turns?
  • Would it help to fly your airplane on a windy day?
  • What can you learn about real airplanes from building paper airplanes?

Making Paper Airplanes

To get started you only need a sheet of copy paper. The following list is things you can use to possibly alter or improve your paper airplane. 

  • Clear tape 
  • A stapler 
  • Paper clips 
  • A ruler 
  • Thicker paper such as construction or cardstock


Step 1:

Start with an 8 1/2 x 11” piece of paper and fold in half lengthwise (like a hot dog bun.)

Fold the paper in half.

Step 2:

Fold the corners down. They will make a point.

Fold corners into a point.

Step 3:

Starting from the point, take one side and fold it in. Do the same on the opposite side. 

Step 4:

Fold your airplane in half lengthwise (like a hot dog bun.)

Step 5:

Starting at the point fold down the wing. Flip your plane and fold down the wing on the other side.

Step 6:

Your plane is ready to fly!

Student Follow-up

After my students have had a chance to make their paper airplanes and test out different designs. I have them fill out a STEM follow-up paper. This is a basic step that will help them when they need to fill out lab report forms in the upper grades. If you would like a copy of this you can check out my Teacherspayteachers account

Teacher Information 

The Great Paper Caper is part of my take-home STEM projects that I let students check out of the library. When students check out this book I also send home Folding Paper Airplanes with STEM For Beginners to Experts by Marie Buckingham and copy paper. I put everything in a bag with a letter. When they are finished with the books they return the bag with both books to the library. I started these check-outs during COVID, but I will be continuing to let students check out our STEM books during our regular school year.

A Fun STEM book.
A take-home STEM bag.

I send home the following letter in the STEM bag. 


Dear ___________ student, 


You have checked a book that is part of our Storybook STEM collection. In addition to The Great Paper Caper book inside the bag is Folding Paper Airplanes with STEM and paper for you to make paper airplanes. When you are done reading the book and making the paper airplanes, please put both books back in the bag, but you can keep the paper. 


Have fun, 


Mrs. R

Finishing UP a STEM Paper Airplane Activity 

Students love to make paper airplanes. I provide them with the instructions for one airplane, and from there they redesign and make their own airplanes. If you are doing this STEM project in person the students love to turn this into a contest. I have set up hula hoops to have them maneuver their planes through and they have flown them both inside and outside.  I have also put tape marks or chalk on the ground and we measured to see whose plane flies the farthest. STEM paper airplanes are a fun activity for the end of the school year when you might be out of resources, because the students only need a piece of paper to participate. 


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