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Grade 7: Paper Airplane Investigation - "How to Think, Work, & Learn Like a Scientist"

In Grade 7 science this September, students conducted a paper airplane investigation to better understand how to think, work, and learn like a scientist.
According to Grade 7 Science Teacher Steve Collins, "We started the unit by reviewing and practicing some key vocabulary and concepts connected to the scientific method. We then moved on to playing with paper airplanes as a way to experience firsthand how scientists think, work, and learn. For some students, making paper airplanes came easily because they already had several airplane designs in mind. Others chose to tinker and create in order to learn how to fold a paper airplane through trial and error. Along the way, there was a lot of sharing of ideas and learning from one another. Finally, once every student had a consistent design that they felt comfortable with, we began the lab. We collected baseline data first before moving on to an experimental round, where students studied and measured the effect caused by a single change in either the plane's design or the way they threw their airplane. By analyzing their data for patterns and trends, and by evaluating the quality and reliability of their data, the students were able to make evidence-based conclusions about how one small detail in their plane's design or launch impacted its ability to fly." 

When asked why engaging lessons (such as the paper airplane investigation) are crucial for student learning, Mr. Collins shared that there is lots of educational research and anecdotal evidence that suggests students learn best when they actively use the things they've learned in a classroom and apply that learning to real-world experiences. "The paper airplane lab allows the seventh-grade science students to revisit how scientists explore and investigate the world while actually following the basic steps of the scientific method," Mr. Collins said. "Science doesn't need to be complicated. The simple activity of folding and flying a paper airplane provides an opportunity to work with scientific variables, make measurements, and gather evidence that will either support or refute a testable hypothesis. It's also fun to work with friends and be in control of what you want to learn more about. I hope my students understand that thinking, working, and learning like a scientist can happen every day and in lots of ways. It all starts by noticing the world around you and being curious enough to ask questions."

In terms of what's to come in Grade 7 science this year, Mr. Collins is looking forward to sharing his enthusiasm for science with his students and helping them make their own connections and discoveries. In addition, Mr. Collins said, "Here at Graland, I appreciate that I am able to keep curiosity at the heart of everything I do. The fact that the students and I can watch videos, build models, use microscopes, and approach learning with an open mind makes the school year exciting." Excellent work, Grade 7 scientists! 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.