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Paper Helicopter Science With a Free Printable Template

paper helicopter template

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A paper helicopter is a fun classic science activity that kids really love. You can do this one with kids of all ages. Today I have instructions for you, a printable template, and the science behind what makes these fun paper helicopters spin! 

Using hands-on activities and simple experiments like this one to teach a science concept is one of the best ways I have found to really help learning to sink in to kids minds.  Seeing science principles in action helps kids grasp them so much better.

paper helicopter spinning

Toy paper helicopters are the perfect science experiment to teach about the force of gravity, about air resistance, engineering and more. They are easy to make, fun to fly and a great way to explore the complex topic of physics in a simpler way. You’ll definitely want to add them to your physics or physical science lesson plans whether you teach elementary school middle school or high school. All the kids will enjoy this one. 

These paper helicopters have always reminded me of a maple seeds’ descent. If you have some of those around you, compare them and see how each spins!  The way these seeds travel have always fascinated me. It’s fun to look at nature for inspiration and comparison. 

maple seed helicopters

We have so many hands-on activities for science, math and more here on my site that I hope you’ll explore, too!  See my Science Art and Drawing Games for Kids Book!

paper helicopter printable template supplies

Supplies Needed to Make a Paper Helicopter

  • Paper (Use my printable template linked below)
  • Scissors
  • Paperclips (optional)
  • Decorate with markers, stickers, or crayons if desired

With such simple supplies, it makes these paper helicopters easy to create for a large group of students at a very low cost!

Download My Free Printable Helicopter Template Now.  This is a PDF file. 

How to Make the Paper Helicopter:

Watch this video to see how they are made!

Begin by cutting a small rectangular strip of paper.  If using my paper helicopter template, they are clearly marked.  There are three on each printed page.  You will cut all of the solid lines and fold on the dotted lines. 

Create the rotor blades. On one end of the rectangular strip, cut down the middle about halfway to create two flaps. These will be the rotor blades (or propeller blades) for your paper helicopter.

Form the body of the helicopter.  At the other end of the rectangle, make two small cuts on each side, about an inch from the end. Fold these two small flaps inward to create a small base for stability. It also lowers the center of gravity offering more stability and balance. You can add a weight by attaching a paperclip to the bottom of the helicopter. This is optional, but it helps it stabilize as the helicopter spins and descends.

Decorate your helicopter! This is a great time to customize the helicopters. Color or decorate as desired! This is totally optional, but kids might love naming their copter, giving it their favorite number, or adding some cool colored stripes. 

Fold and adjust the rotor blades: Fold one rotor blade forward and the other backward. Folding them in opposite directions will help create the spin needed for the helicopter to descend slowly.

Test your helicopter: Hold the helicopter by the body (the bottom part) and drop it from a high place such as a balcony, stairway, or even just standing on a chair. Watch how it spins as it descends.

paper helicopter dropping from balcony

The Science Behind The Paper Helicopter Experiment:

There is a lot of science involved in this activity, particularly physics.  Paper helicopters can help you teach about some of the forces at work in a tangible way. 

spinning paper helicopter science

Teach the Physics of Flight:

The paper helicopters are spinning because of the force of air acting on each of the helicopter blades. The air presses on each blade with an equal force but in opposing directions. Plus, gravity is pulling it downward all at the same time!  All of this causes it to spin. Who knew there were so many forces at work at once time?! 

  • Gravity is the force that pulls the helicopter down towards the Earth. 
  • Air Resistance: The rotor blades create air resistance, slowing the descent. They won’t move upward like a regular helicopter does because there is no thrust in this paper helicopter. 
  • Lift and Drag: As the paper helicopter falls, it will begin to spin. The blades generate lift and drag, which stabilize the helicopter and create a controlled, slow descent.  This is called Bernoulli’s Principle which describes how when the speed of the air goes up, the pressure goes down, and vice versa.  
  • Aerodynamics: Kids are learning how the shape and structure of objects affect movement through the air.
  • Engineering & Art: Kids learn basic principles of designing and testing to achieve a desired outcome. You could even use this with older kids in graphic arts and design classes by having them create their own custom paper helicopter templates!

Why Use Paper Helicopters In Your Science Lesson:

Paper helicopters are great to use in any classroom, or homeschool environment!  Here are a few reasons why we love them. 

  • They are a hands-on learning activity.  We love activities that involve kids because it enhances learning and retention. 
  • Kids learn about gravity, air resistance, lift, and drag in a tangible way.
  • This activity encourages experimentation. Students can modify the design (size, shape of blades, weight) and observe changes in performance.  This encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Interdisciplinary Learning is always a great thing in my book!  Paper helicopters combines art (decorating), engineering (designing and building), and physics (understanding forces).
  • It is accessible. The simple materials and steps make it easy for all kids to participate.

Extend the Learning:

Experiment with different variables.  Encourage experimenting with variables in this activity.  Once you have the basic template, you can change it up. Change the length of rotor blades or the body length. Make your paper helicopter design in different sizes.  Remove the weight or add more. Try a different type of paper, such as cardstock or even a notecard. Use stopwatches to time the airplanes descent. 

Record observations and make not of how the different changes affect the speed, flight time, spin.

Relate them to the real world. How do these paper airplanes work in relation to an actual helicopter?  

Download The Printable Helicopter Template Now!

 

Also Try our Paper Airplane Experiments!

Check out some other cool paper craft learning activities:

Twirligig~ Rainbow Paper Spinner Toy
The Science of Flight with Paper Airplanes
Six Paper Tricks That Seem Like Magic!
3-D Paper Shape Templates
How to Make a Book With One Piece of Paper
Blooming Paper Flowers Experiment
Engineering: Make Paper Hold Up Books!