# Physical Science

Inquiry with Paper

I and many other physics teachers often would challenge student design and creativity by having students participate in a Paper Olympics. Students designed, built, and explained the physics concepts in a series of challenges such as building a paper bridge our of 3 sheets of paper or build a paper bridge with trusses etc. to determine which bridge carried the largest load; drop an egg from 20 meters and only have 2 sheets of paper and a limited amount of string, tape, and 3 marshmallows to deliver a 'live egg' to the ground in the shortest amount of time; build the tallest paper tower; build a paper boat from one sheet and see how many pennies it can hold before sinking etc. etc. etc.
The idea of using paper in inquiry lessons that promote creativity and science understanding led me to search NSTA resources. I will attach several of them here and challenge others to find more as well as to share how teachers can model 'best practice' inquiry with a very limited budget and mainly sheets of 'recycled' paper. Surely a way to be Keen on Science and Green :} Y'all chime in, now. I'm excited about what may appear on this thread.
~patty

As an afterthought, let's work together in the upcoming week or two and put together a global collection of paper activities from free NSTA resources that encourage creativity, design, and knowledge.

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Hi Patty,

This idea is outside of NSTA resources, but a lot of inquiry can be done with paper rollercoasters. The website, http://www.paperrollercoasters.com/ provides templates (for a fee) for students to use for designing. We did this as an end of the year project, but I forsee using parts of the templates to have students investigate things such as what angle and how much track is needed to have a marble make a loop? More math integrated would have the students calculating the distance the ball travels (including the loop) and working out the speed formula.

Anyhow, I will look for more paper ideas.

Susan

Susan German
31120 Activity Points

Susan,
Thank you for this great site on paper roller coasters :} Coasters are becoming such an integral part of teaching about motion and energy that many teachers will relish the opportunity to design inquiry lessons around paper and large marbles.
Do you have a write up of a specific lesson design that you might share with us? We surely would appreciate modeling your inquiry.

And although the Annenberg site is not paper --it is 'paperless' and perhaps another way for students to think about designing their paper coasters. The interactive site has been mentioned before but I'll go ahead and mention it again here since it is often a teaching and learning resource.It is part of the Amusement Park Physics interactives.

http://www.learner.org/interactives/parkphysics/coaster.html

Click on the main site to get to the design a roller coaster interactive for students to use.
http://www.learner.org/interactives/parkphysics/coaster/

Again, thanks for sharing, Susan. We look forward to more of your great contributions:}
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Paper Plane Olympics a`la Eastford Elementary School!

Things posted on the web are out there for us to use, soooo...I noted that this thread is now growing to include 'Teacher designed' paper olympics and came upon this information from Eastford Elementary School. I hope they become aware that I am sharing their informatiohttp://www.eastfordct.org/instruction.cfm?subpage=1013773n' target="_blank">http://www.eastfordct.org/instruction.cfm?subpage=1013773n with you as an example of 'real class applications.' I will try to contact them and let them know.
Meanwhile, go ahead and visit their site: (also note that here is a way to combine art and science)

http://www.eastfordct.org/instruction.cfm?subpage=1013773

Instruction Â» Ms. Muller Â» PreK-8 ART Â» Paper Plane Olympics
Paper Plane Olympics

After viewing a PBS movie called "Between the Folds" middle school students have a good appreciation of how high level artistry and engineering can produce amazing constructions from JUST ONE PIECE OF PAPER---using no glue or scissors.

Students will be challenged to build an aerodynamic flying form that can be tested for distance, height and acrobatics just like an actual prototype aircraft. Mrs. Tedisky will facilitate the test trials in the gym so that there are "controlled atmospheric conditions." Our rules are simple: no glue, tape or added weights or other accessories (although the surfaces of the planes may be decorated).

An interesting fact is that aeronautical engineers hold their own flight contests with extreme paper planes. Scientists from MIT and other "think tanks" often use computerized programs to organize fold patterns in one sheet of paper to challenge the limits of paper to its ultimate strength and usefulness.

The website below offers instructions to the "world's best paper plane" and it looks like a good match for middle school students. Copy and paste the URL below into your browser and follow the directions!

http://www.zurqui.com/crinfocus/paper/air-bld1.html

With thanks to these creative middle school teachers :}
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Hi Patty, Susan, and thread participants,
What a great idea, Patty! When I typed in "paper" in advanced search, there were hundreds of entries to go through. Out of the first 20 I discovered two book chapters. I will check those out today. Here is the information for them:
A One-Sided Paper Loop â€“ The Mobius Band
The Tower Challenge
I also came across a journal article for making paper biomes:
Biome is Where the Art is
Fun!
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Hi Carolyn,
It sure if fun, isn't it, but the really neat thing is that paper provides a sustainable medium for great inquiry. Thank you for your NSTA contributions. I've done the Mobius Band with children and they love it!
I'm thinking that sometime in July, hoping that more people have the opportunity to excite their imaginations with this topic and to share ideas, I will put together a STEM-Paper Collection. STEM certainly is in the news and we can go green and suport magnificient low tech inquiry into science and math education. Although I am a high tech educator, I also use and appreciate paper and sticky tape inquiry, too. Actually, I should look up the dated but quite useful UNESCO book that was a great resource in my early Peace Corps days of teaching. That book is more than 50 years old now but it helped to guide village students to do and to enjoy science with little on hand for equipment.

The growing community of teachers on this thread will look forward to what you have to share about your resources. Thanks a bunch, Carolyn.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

You can make just about anything (except maybe chocolate) out of paper! I just read an article called Gravity Racers, and the vehicles were made mainly out of - you guessed it - PAPER. Fun!

Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Thanks, Carolyn, for posting the gravity racer resource -- hmmm...I wonder if paper could substitute for flour -- actually my students used to make fudge as a 'phun' lab in chemistry class right before the winter holidays. I saved beakers and glassware that were only used for food labs and I had an inquiry lab written up about mixtures, moles, reaction rates etc. etc. that they used and the end product was fudge. All students loved this lab. It was in the days before computers so it now is hidden away in the attic in some must box of files but I bet that some creative teacher could reinvent it. I'm off tangent here. Your comment sent me down a happy road. Have a great day, Everyone, and keep the paper library growing. It's great that so many content areas are covered.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

p.s., Carolyn, could you attach the article to a post for those who may encounter a glitch finding it; also, it will be ready for adding to our collaborative collection on paper inquiry. Thanks a 'ream.' in lieu of a 'bunch'
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Hi Patty,

I don't have anything specific for inquiry, yet. I am working on this, this summer.

Susan

Susan German
31120 Activity Points

Susan, keep us in the loop please. Perhaps your sharing how you will go about designing your paper lesson could be a model for others who do not have as much experience in the classroom but are interested in your method and design process. What a great opportunity for you, and all of us, to mentor each other through a little personal summer PD. I look forward to hearing your voice in this thread as you work on your lesson and really look forward to the responses that it will trigger in other voices.
Thanks so much for sharing.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Great thread! I have been researching paper airplanes for my summer classes, but there appears to be so much more. Especially good for cash-strapped districts (not so good for pine trees). There is so much creativity here, and I plan to follow up on several of the ideas, especially those that can be used outside.

Jennifer Rahn
67885 Activity Points

I'm not sure how this would tie into inquiry, but it does use paper...and I always thought it was quite clever.

A friend of mine used to construct miniature planetariums out of rolled up newspaper (rolled lengthwise and about 3cm in diameter). She would attach them together in triangles and the triangles together to make a geodesic dome and cover it with black plastic (trash bags) and sheets of newspaper to make it opaque (leaving one triangle open for someone to put their upper body through to see the "sky" at the base. You could either punch holes for the stars or I believer that she used glow in the dark star stickers and a flashlight inside.
I suppose if students created their own planetariums and included some traditional constellations and maybe made up one of their own with its own "legend" that might be creative (but maybe not inquiry)...

Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

I would say the goal would be to try to re-use paper that would just be thrown away or recycled. By this, I mean using extra worksheets, mistake copies, newspaper, cereal boxes, etc. I think if we get creative, we not create more "strain" on the trees.

Susan

Susan German
31120 Activity Points

Patty asks, "p.s., Carolyn, could you attach the article to a post for those who may encounter a glitch finding it; also, it will be ready for adding to our collaborative collection on paper inquiry. Thanks a 'ream.' in lieu of a 'bunch'
~patty"
If you were talking about the Gravity Racers, Patty, the article is embedded in one of my earlier posts. If it was another article, let me know. I was reading about a wind turbine (paper pinwheel) idea on another thread that I thought might be of interest to paper inquirers, so I will put the link here: General Science and Teaching > Wind Turbine Project
In particular, see the posts made by Colin R.
I am fascinated by how much science can be experienced with paper!
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Thanks for all for the great resources and shared ideas on how to have a sustainable inquiry with paper. My students just loved building paper bridges, of all different types, from ones they had to build in 10 minutes to ones that they had as design projects and consisted of trusses and cables - all out of paper and with limited amounts of glue and mass. In some archive of mine, I have many descriptions of activities, but so many of them were shared from PTRA or AAPT meetings and also from great resources such as the Exploratorium. Then we teachers took off with the ideas; I also had students design projects and the rubric that accompanied them. That was fun, too, as well as instructional. For example:

Challenge - using only two sheets of recycled test paper, 8 x 10,build a bridge that will hold the greatest payload. You have 10 minutes to design and to build your bridge. Also availabe to you are two parallel bars spaced 28 cm apart. This is one of the ideas the kids devised and mirrors one from the Exploratorium.

http://www.exploratorium.edu/structures/paperbridges4.html

Thanks for sharing, everyone.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

and finally from a Physics Olympics site --http://www.gravitykills.net/PhysicsOlympics/Bridge.htm

Overview - Each student will enter a Paper Bridge and Full Scale Drawing with Force Analysis Poster to compete in Physics Olympics. Each student is to complete his or her project according the design requirements and due dates. Students may bring their project to class prior to competition day for approval and inspection by his or her teacher as well as to check their project for minimum supporting mass requirements.

Purpose - To construct a bridge from paper and glue that will support the heaviest load (minimum supporting mass requirment is 5 kilograms).

A nice STEM and Engineering project on a low budget --so often STEM connotes doing things with high end technology but STEM is just good science, with or without an extensive budget.

~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

WOW! I never have would have thought to use sheets of paper an inquiry science lesson but this is why I come to these forums to get great ideas from everyone else. I thought I will try and do this paper inquiry lesson at the end of the school year because will starting the fourth quarter with force and motion. This would be great for the students to end the year using all there knowledge and testing to build something that will have to transport or hold an object.
Thanks everyone.

Helen Hicks
2635 Activity Points

Thank you all for your great insight to the various ways I can use PHYSICS inquiry in my classroom (as I myself am in need of more physics training - being out of touch with it for so long). Although inquiry is focused on during the 1st quarter, my life science students enjoy an activity or two thrown to them during the course of the year. The ideas that you've all posted gives me a multitude of ideas that can be used not only in the first quarter but I really do like the idea of having an olympiad type challenge! Maybe I can do 1-2 inquiry based lessons (physics, earth, life) throughout all four quarters and have students and/or groups of students compete. Exciting! I look forward to checking out the many links provided! Thank you again!

Rochelle Tamiya
4085 Activity Points

I do an inquiry activity to help with understanding experimental design with paper helicopters.

Dan Carroll
18550 Activity Points

Say Dan, I would like to know more about your inquiry and your paper helicopters. Please share a bit more with us when you have a moment. What is the design of the copter? Is it just the rotors? Really interested :} ~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

It is from long ago when i first started. From a text on experimental design. Here is a similar plan i found on-line

http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/Education/GroupProgra...ersPre.pdf

Dan Carroll
18550 Activity Points

We are using paper as our medium to explore topology with the moebious trips, the konigsberg bridges, cutting your way through an index card, etc. Glad to find this book chapter.

Laura Jones
9735 Activity Points

We are using paper as our medium to explore topology with the moebious trips, the konigsberg bridges, cutting your way through an index card, etc. Glad to find this book chapter.

Laura Jones
9735 Activity Points

thanks Dan - I appreciate your sharing and the site looks interesting - I am sure that all will benefit from your input :}
I often used a helicopter rotor as a means for introductory students to observe terminal velocity - they quickly caught on to the concept as the rotors morphed from free fall into a twirling object. Then the students would stand on the desks and hold a motion detector to the ceiling and drop the rotors again and actually measure the distance fallen vs. time and explain the real-time graphs. They could be creative and then alter the helicopter rotor design to observe changes in terminal velocity. It was a nice inquiry experience for the students.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

There are many other things to do to.

Which way does it spin?
How does weight affect rotational speed?
Using different stiffnesses of paper?
whatever else you can think of.

Dan Carroll
18550 Activity Points

What an awesome thread!!!!! So much ideas for inquiry lessons! this is great I can really expand on my unit of Scientific Inquiry next year. I am excited to go through all of these resources, especially the Paper biome, very interested on incorporating that in my upcoming unit of ecology. It is interesting to see how these activities can be adapted to fit different disciplines of science. I took a quick look at the preview for tower challenge and was surprised to see how easily it can be related to life science, or even be used as an interdisciplinary activity within my team. Thanks everyone for posting such great ideas!

Travis Toriano
990 Activity Points

Thanks to all who are posting on this thread. We encourage you to share your ideas here, too. It is so nice that there are some on-going conversations, even of a line or two, that connects us to another teacher and broadens our ideas on how to use simple items for very 'real' and phun inquiry activities. If you come across other 'paper' ideas, please share them. I have to remind myself, I who used very high tech as well as string and 'sticky tape' for experimentation, that the essence of STEM is the design, implementation, and the analysis of an event; not necessarily the material that is the foundation for that event. I also found using paper a neat way to get students to take something home and engage the rest of the family in interesting conversations at the dinner table.
Again...keep those voices ringing....patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

A new question posed in August of 2012 asks about teaching physics inexpensively and i recalled this thread that was active some time ago. I'm posting a new reply today, August 27, to bring it forward to page 1 again. And perhaps more voices will chime in.
~patty

Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

A site I've loved and used often is http://www.pbs.org/parents/fetch/activities/index.html. It has many inquiry based experiments that only use paper and sometimes tape. I love them because not only are the inexpensive, but the instructions are clear and easy to follow. Therefore giving the kids more time for inquiry and less time needed for demonstration. I've used them in both middle and high school as well as with my science club.

Vanessa Cannon
1630 Activity Points

Thank you for all of the great ideas! It seems it all started with the paper towers and then morphed on to awesome creative structures, movable objects, etc. My son had to do a project using newspaper and was instructed that they had to make a double hulled canoe out of rolled paper. It was pretty cool and VERY sturdy! They rolled newspaper into about half the size of a straw (diameter) and put them together to form the canoe. They used a watered down glue base to make their canoe "water resistant" and covered all parts then with brown shipping paper. Long story short, the product was amazing! Lots of really fun, cool ideas...I think I'll have my students "experiment"....

Rochelle Tamiya
4085 Activity Points

It seems like today is the day to share these inexpensive activities for electrostatics created by Bob Morse. The materials are simple and inexpensive and the physics content on the nature of electrostatic charge and electrostatic forces is stellar. Students really enjoy doing the activities and I even have handed out paper bags full of things so that the students could explore at home for homework and then put a poster or another creative artistic way to explain their understanding.

http://www.as.wvu.edu/phys/rotter/phys201/6_Electricity/Electrostatics.htm

ELECTROSTATICS ACTIVITIES for STUDENTS

by Robert A. Morse

St. Albans School, Washington DC 20016