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Flipping Figures

Air is all around us but usually moves so slowly that we don't notice it. To get air to move quickly, we need to make it move!

Something spinning in the air is one way we can tell that air is moving quickly. Can paper spin or flip in the air?

In this activity, students use blasts of air to make their paper figures fly as high as they can.

This activity is a part of The Air Up There, a unit made for Science World's Big Science for Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with Preschool and Kindergarten educators.

 The Air Up There printable guide.

Objectives

  • Use blasts of air to make paper figures fly as high as possible, manipulating the strength of the blasts and evaluating the results.

Materials

  • Per Class or Group:
    paper cones (paper semi-circles at least 17 cm in diameter, with no hole in the top; see Flipping Figure Template.
    tape or paper clips
    a variety of empty squeezable bottles, such as soap bottles or sports drink bottles
    markers, crayons and/or stickers for decorating (optional)

Key Questions

  • How can we make the cones move?
  • Do the cones stay in the air for very long?
  • What will happen if we put the cone on top of the bottle?
  • What is inside the bottle?
  • What happens when you squeeze the bottle? How come?
  • What happens when you squeeze hard or soft?
  • Take the lid off the bottle and squeeze it. What happens now?
  • Experiment with different bottles. Which one makes your figure fly highest?

What To Do

  1. Cut out the template and wrap it into a cone. Secure with tape or paper clips.
  2. Place the cone over the top of one squeezable bottle and squeeze.
  3. Try squeezing the bottle hard, soft or not at all.
  4. Try different sizes and shapes of bottles.
  5. Try taking off the lids of the bottles and placing the cones over the larger openings.

Extensions

  • Experiment with different-sized cones. Which ones work best on each bottle? How come?
  • Try cones made of different kinds of paper and compare the results.
  • Try leaving a hole in the top of the cone. Does it make a difference in how the figure flies?
  • Try using paper clips instead of tape to secure the paper cones. How does this change the result?
  • Make a target on the wall/ceiling/floor. Can you get your cone to hit the target?

Other Resources

Science World | Flipping Figure Template