Explore science though play with this paper helicopter pinwheel– a fun STEM activity for kids perfect for summer. There’s even a free pinwheel template to help get you started!
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We put a little twist on the typical pinwheel craft- instead of vertical pinwheels, we made ours horizontal and dropped them to see what would happen. We discovered they spun as gravity pulled them toward the ground!
These paper helicopter pinwheels are super easy to make, and you can even turn them into a STEAM project like we did by designing your own paper for the project!
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Paper Helicopter Pinwheel Science
Materials for Paper Helicopter Pinwheels
- Glue stick or dot glue runner
- Thumb tack
- Cork (We used craft corks similar to these, but you can just save your wine bottle corks.)
- Optional: Free Pinwheel Template
How to Make Paper Helicopter Pinwheels
1. Select some paper to use for your helicopter pinwheel. We designed our own paper by painting some art paper with liquid watercolors and pipettes.
2. Use your printer to print the pinwheel template directly onto your paper, or trace the template onto your paper.
3. Cut out the square and then cut along the diagonal lines located in each corner.
4. Attach each resulting corner to the center of the square using a glue stick or dot glue runner. We used a dot glue runner so we wouldn’t have to wait for the glue to dry. (See pictures below)
5. Flip your pinwheel over and use a tack to attach it to a cork.
6. Now you’re ready to play! Hold the helicopter pinwheel up really high with the cork facing down and let go.
The pinwheel spins as it drops to the ground!
What’s Going On?
The force of gravity is pulling the pinwheels to the ground. Air resistance is pushing against each fold of the pinwheel making it spin.
Want to Go Even Further?
Even more activities to inspire creativity and critical thinking for various ages.
1. Try making different sized pinwheels. How does the size affect the speed at which they fall?
2. What direction do the pinwheels turn as they fall? How could you make them turn the other direction?
3. Try these DIY paper helicopters from Babble Dabble Do!
4. Make some origami paper twirlers from Willowday!