Making Paper Airplane Gliders

paper airplane

This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Recommended Age Group: Later Elementary and Middle School

Guiding Questions:

  1. Can I make a paper glider that will fly?
  2. What can I do to a glider to make it fly longer or go on a straighter path?







Each person needs:

  1. 2 - 4 sheets of construction paper
  2. 1-2 sheets tissue paper
  3. Paintbrush
  4. Cup or small dish to hold rice paste
  5. 1/4 cup rice paste
  6. A ladder is great to stand on to sail gliders farther
  7. handout with instructions for making a paper glider

To make rice paste for each person you need:

  1. Spoon or ladle
  2. 2 quart sauce pan
  3. Colander
  4. Bowl larger than the colander to sit in to catch the liquid for our rice paste
  5. 1/4 cup rice
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 3 cups water
  8. Stove or hot plate

Room Preparation

Each person needs space to make glider and table area when covering glider with rice paste and tissue paper.

If possible, sail glider from the top of stairs or stand at top of a ladder.

Safety Precautions

If students make the rice paste, handle stove or hot plate with care to avoid burns.

Procedures and Activity


Share the guiding questions:

  1. Can I make a paper glider that will fly?
  2. What can I do to a glider to make it fly longer or go on a straighter path?

    Talk about things that fly and float in the air. How do they do that? Begin to share and discuss principles about aerodynamics, lift, wing and body shapes, or the weight or lightness of objects that fly. Today we will experiment with making gliders out of construction paper only and then with rice paste and tissue paper added to see if we can make a glider more aerodynamic.


  1. First, make a paper glider following the instructions on the handout.

    Fly the glider and see how well it stays in the air, floats, glides, and descends to the ground. Does the glider take a nose dive? Does the glider spin and wobble around? If so, why do you think it does that? Are parts of the glider too light or heavy?

  2. Make your rice paste.
  3. Make another paper glider. Think about what happened to your first glider. Where do you think a little weight might be placed on your glider to make it stay in the air longer, to take a straighter path, or to descend more slowly and avoid going into a nose dive?
  4. Put your rice paste into a bowl. With the paintbrush, spread the rice paste onto the areas of your glider where you want to add some weight. Tear the tissue paper into the size and shape you want and glue pieces onto the glider on top of the rice paste. The rice paste is your adhesive or glue-like material for adding tissue paper layers and weight to your glider.
  5. Let your glider dry overnight. Then try flying it. Watch to see if it stays in the air longer than the paper-only glider. Or how does it travel—does it spin and wobble or go in a straighter line and path?
  6. You might experiment with more gliders and designs. For example, try making one that is totally covered with a couple of layers of tissue paper. Or try making one with heavier wings or a heavier body. What seems to happen when you add weight to just one wing? See if you can come up with some ideas and conclusions about gliders and how to make them more aerodynamic. How does this information help you think about the design of airplanes?

Closing - Original Question

Ask again:

  1. Can I make a paper glider that will fly?
  2. What can I do to a glider to make it fly longer or go on a straighter path?


What kinds of observations did you make? Can you draw some conclusions about making gliders more or less aerodynamic? Think about how you launched the gliders. Are there certain arm or wrist movements that made the glider fly better or worse? Did you try flying the gliders just while standing on the floor? Did you try flying them from an elevation, such as the top of a flight of stairs or the top of a ladder? What difference do you think that made?

Extension Ideas

Try The Great Paper Airplane Challenge.

Find many paper plane designs at this Directory of Plans and at Alex's Free Paper Airplanes site.

Prerequisite Vocabulary

The forces and things that happen to an object moving through the air
The mix of invisible gases that suuround the whole earth.
An object that moves through the air
An object that moves through the air
Something that becomes airbound and moves through the air, gradually descending
An object without a motor or enging that can become airborne and descend in the air
When your glider seems to ascend or go up and rise in the air
When you make something heavier such as adding rice paste and tissue paper to your glider's wings, body or nose
The part of your glider on both sides of the body that helps is glide and stay up in the air

Let us know what you think! E-mail webmaster Martha

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