Paper Airplanes

20 minutes
Paper Airplanes
Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to assess their own own blocks for creativity  and will be encouraged to creatively solve a problem.

Resources & Preparation Needed
  • A room with free floor space
  • A set of 10 coloured sheets of A4 paper for each group (each group gets a different colour pack of A4 paper to distinguish the groups, they need to re-use the papers for different attempts)
  • You can also use scrap paper/folders/newspapers – then put a sign/letter on their scrap paper
  • Masking tape or chalk for drawing the line
  • Timer
Description

This is a quick, fun activity that can be used to prompt participants to think creatively and come up with outside the box ideas to accomplish this simple, fun task in a competitive, exciting simple way. 

Directions & Set Up

Split the class into equal groups of 4 or 5 per group

Give each group 10 sheets of A4 paper (each group gets a different colour)

Use the masking tape to create a start line where all groups will need to stand behind and a finish line (distance between start and finish is 1.5 – 2 meters). 

Rules for Students

The winning team is the group that gets the most paper objects across the taped line within the given time.

Each team has a different colour paper.

It is not allowed to crumble the paper and make a simple ball of it! 

You will have 3 minutes to strategise without your paper.

You will have 5 minutes to build your objects and get them across the taped line.

You can start when I say ‘start’ – the time starts. Are you ready?

It can be that the students run out of paper. They may reuse the paper which doesn’t fall behind the line and there are no rules about how big the objects should be. 

What’s the point of this activity? The main point of this activity is to focus on the fact that we tend to stick too much to the rules even though there were too few rules in this activity and how making too many assumptions greatly hinders our ability to think creatively and come up with new, out of the box solutions to solve problems. 

Despite having very few rules in this activity, most groups will stick very strictly (Literally) to them, they will mostly likely create airplanes with wings and a tail, while they can be more creative and:

  • simply create their airplanes and put them together in one stack with a rubber band so that the combined weight of all the paper airplanes will ensure they will  pass the finish line;
  • simply put all their planes on one of the office chairs with wheels and push the chair from the start to the finish line ensuring all their planes passed the finish line safely.
Ideas For Reflection

When running this activity, most groups do not use the 3 minutes to build a good strategy and brainstorm possible ways to make the largest number or airplanes out of their 10 sheets of paper. Instead they rush to get to the construction phase and most of the groups spend the 5 minutes they get for construction to create as many paper airplanes and the result is usually that most of the airplanes do not make it to the finish line because the designs are usually not very aerodynamic. 

You can ask the students:

  • How did you organise the process?
  • What worked out well?
  • What skills did you use in designing the objects?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • How did you experience the time pressure?

There are 8 famous blocks that prevent us from thinking creatively, the 8 blocks are. You can write on a board or read out loud in class:

  1. Believing you aren’t creative
  2. Making assumptions
  3. Following the rules too strictly
  4. Being serious
  5. Avoiding risks or being wrong is bad
  6. Always staying with your routines/habits
  7. Thinking there is only one solution
  8. Making judgments too quickly

If we apply the 8 blocks to what happened, ask the groups what assumptions did they make and what rules did they stick to that caused them to design the airplanes the way they did?