Whoa! STEM in under 10 mins; all you need to do is grab some paper! Let’s explore air resistance with a few sheets of paper! Let’s answer the question, what is air resistance? Then, find even more fun and easy activities to demonstrate air resistance for kids’ physics. Look for free printable science worksheets. We love easy STEM activities for kids!

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What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math and i so essential to incorporate it into lesson plans.

We have put together a handy STEM resource here.

This fantastic air resistance STEM activity below requires so little setup and uses simple-to-grab supplies. We happened to have a bunch of colored computer paper, but ordinary white paper will do too!

Check out more fun physics for kids here.

We checked out a cool book from the library called Making Origami Science Experiments Step by Step by Michael LaFosse. We found this little gem of a STEM activity, building paper airfoils using simple origami folds.

I hadn’t considered combining origami and STEM, but it is the perfect project, especially if you have a few minutes. Learn more about air resistance below.

Kids of all ages can participate in this activity! The younger kids will happily enjoy this playful STEM activity and can talk about what they see. While older kids can take notes, record observations, draw conclusions, and develop more experiments (see the science process below)!

There are many ways to extend this activity into a longer lesson, and I will share more air resistance activities below. Plus, we have a handy free printable you can download at the end of this post.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Easy STEM Activities and Science Experiments With Paper

What is Air Resistance for Kids?

Of course, you want to add some of the science behind this air resistance STEM activity! How does air resistance affect the speed of a falling object like a paper air foil? I bet you have already figured that one out!

Air resistance is a force that pushes against things as they move through the air. When you throw a ball or ride a bike, the air around you pushes back, trying to slow you down. This force is called air resistance. Have you ever stuck your hand out of a car window while it’s moving? You can feel the air pushing against your hand, right? Or how about on a windy day, you try to run into the wind or away from the wind; what do you notice? That’s air resistance at work!

An object’s size, shape, and speed affect how much air resistance it experiences. Compare a feather and a rock! If you drop a feather and a rock from the same height, the feather takes longer to reach the ground. Why? A feather experiences more air resistance because it is lighter and has a greater surface area.

You might also like to try some of these fun gravity activities!

What else does air resistance help with? What about helping birds fly or slowing down a parachute’s fall? Sometimes air resistance can be a problem! Think about a time you wanted to ride your bike faster but felt like the wind pushing against you. Air resistance is all around us.

Scientists and engineers study air resistance to design better cars, planes, and sports equipment. They try to make things more streamlined to reduce air resistance and make them move faster and more efficiently. What about a bike helmet? Think about the car racing you see on tv! Have you ever entered a Pine Wood Derby as a Cub Scout or Boy Scout?

Add This Free Science Process Pack to Your Experiment

Air Resistance Experiment

SUPPLIES:

  • Printer/Computer Paper
  • Origami Science Book (optional for this activity)
  • Other objects to explore air resistance (optional)

All you need is a few sheets of paper, an open area, and our handy STEM activity printable sheet if you want to extend the lesson. This is a great place to experiment. As a result, you will want to have some trial runs with different air foils. Learn more about the scientific method for kids.

INSTRUCTIONS:

PART 1: To start, you want a control test which will just be your unfolded piece of paper.

REMEMBER TO ASK QUESTIONS TO ENCOURAGE OBSERVATION AND CRITICAL THINKING!

Hold the paper out at arm’s length and release!

  • What happens?
  • What do you notice about the paper moving through the air?
  • Does it drop quickly or slowly?
  • Does it float around a bit or drop straight down?

These are all good points to record in your journal if you are extending the learning portion of this air resistance STEM activity.

PART 2: Let’s test and compare the air resistance of different paper types. Cardboard, poster board, card stock… big and small pieces.

How to Make Air Foils

Luckily this is so simple as I remember some of the crazy origami folds I used to try and make from instructions!

We made three paper air foils, all with varying amounts of folds. 1/4 way up the paper, 1/2 way up the paper, and 3/4 way up the paper. Why do we need to test different amounts of folds? Doing so is called changing a variable in an experiment.

FOLD IT: Check out the 1/2 way up air foil below. While it might look like a traditional paper fan fold, a valley fold is not how you would fold a paper fan.

TIP: You are not flipping back and forth but instead folding the paper over itself until you get to the 1/2 way point or whatever point you choose to test.

Finally, The last step for creating your paper air foil is to fold the edges over once on each side, as seen below. Nothing fancy. Just a quick and straightforward air foil with computer paper!

To test our thoughts on air resistance, we need to change the shape of the paper, and we will do it with an origami fold called the valley fold.

By now, you may have developed your hypothesis, which might be: Do different shapes of paper have different air resistance?

TEST IT: Now it’s time to test out what you know about air resistance. Take your control air foil (the unfolded paper) and test it with the newly folded air foil. Hold both your air foil models out at arm’s length and release.

It’s time to take a look at what happens! What observations can you make, and are there any conclusions you can draw?

Then, we made an even smaller air foil by valley-folding the paper more! The difference is less noticeable. However, the more compact an air foil is, it does hit the ground faster. What other shapes of airfoils can you come up with?

In addition, you can test out different paper airplanes, scrunched up paper balls, or make a helicopter.

Observation skills, critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to persist through failure are all great lessons learned from simple STEM activities.

More Are Resistance Activity Ideas

Straw Rockets: Create simple rockets using paper and attach them to plastic straws. Kids can blow into the straw to launch the rockets and observe how air resistance affects their flight. Use the video to see how to create your own. Grab the templates for all the activities and many more in our Paper Projects Pack.

Watch the Video Here:

Parachute Drop: Design and make small parachutes from lightweight materials like tissue paper or plastic bags. Drop them from a height and observe how air resistance slows their descent.

Paper Airplane Race: Have a paper airplane competition to see whose plane flies the farthest or stays in the air the longest. Kids can experiment with different designs to understand how air resistance affects flight.

Wind Tube Experiments: Build a wind tube using cardboard boxes or PVC pipes, and let kids experiment with various objects to see how air resistance affects their movement in the tube.

Sailboat Racing: Make DIY sailboats out of everyday materials you have around. Craft paper sails with straws. Fill a shallow pool or tub with water and observe how the boats move using their sails.

Feather and Tissue Paper Races: Set up a race between a feather and a piece of tissue paper by blowing on them and observing how air resistance affects their motion. A turkey or meat baster is fun to use too!

Balloon Cars: Create simple balloon-powered cars using straws, bottle caps, and balloons. Kids can experiment with different balloon sizes and shapes to see how air resistance affects the car’s speed. In addition, you can set up balloon rockets!

Flying Kites: Make a DIY kite! Fly kites on a windy day and discuss with kids how the shape and design of the kite help it overcome air resistance.

Windmill STEM Project: Build a windmill and test it outside. Learn about how useful wind power can be and how it is generated.

Anemometer: Build an anemometer and take it outside to explore wind speed.

More Engineering Resources

Below you’ll find various engineering resources to supplement the many engineering projects on the website. From the design process to fun books to key vocabulary terms…you can feel confident providing these valuable skills. Each one of the resources below has a free printable!

ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS

Engineers often follow a design process. Although there are many different design processes that all engineers use, each one includes the same basic steps to identify and solve problems.

An example of the process is “ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve.” This process is flexible and may be completed in any order. Learn more about the Engineering Design Process.

WHAT IS AN ENGINEER?

Is a scientist an engineer? Is an engineer a scientist? It might not be very clear! Often scientists and engineers work together to solve a problem. You may find it hard to understand how they are similar yet different. Learn more about what an engineer is.

ENGINEERING BOOKS FOR KIDS

Sometimes the best way to introduce STEM is through a colorfully illustrated book with characters your kids can relate to! Check out this fantastic list of teacher-approved engineering books, and get ready to spark curiosity and exploration!

ENGINEERING VOCAB

Think like an engineer! Talk like an engineer! Act like an engineer! Get kids started with a vocabulary list that introduces some awesome engineering terms. Make sure to include them in your next engineering challenge or project.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Use these reflection questions below with your kids after they have completed a STEM challenge. These questions will encourage discussion of the results and increase critical thinking skills. These questions or prompts will help to promote meaningful discussions individually and in groups. Read the questions for reflection here.

Printable STEM Pack for Kids

80+ Doable Engineering Projects in one convenient pack!

  • Full instructions with sample images
  • Activity-specific instruction sheets
  • Data Collection Sheets
  • Questions for Reflection
  • Architecture Building Cards: Try the tallest tower challenge
  • Bridge Building Cards: Explore different types of bridges to build your own.
  • Paper Chain STEM Challenge: Who can make the longest chain? Great icebreaker or quick challenge!
  • 3 Little Pigs Architectural Pack: Design a house that won’t blow away!
  • Great marshmallow challenge: A classic challenge kids love!
  • Want to try a Real-world STEM challenge lesson but don’t know where to start? Our easy-to-follow template shows the steps!
  • What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
  • Crossword and word search with engineering vocabulary.
  • Engineering vocabulary cards
  • Design a one-of-a-kind invention and write about it with this 5-page activity!
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