Science at Home

Aug 17, 2022

Science activities to do together that inspire creativity and deep thoughts about STEM! Today's activity: Straw Gliders!

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Straw Gliders

Happy National Aviation Day! In the United States, we celebrate National Aviation Day annually on August 20, Orville Wright’s birthday. Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright were famous aviators who completed the first controlled, sustained flight of a heavier-than-air, powered aircraft on December 17, 1903.

The brothers flew a glider at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina when they made their historic flight. Today, we’ll fly a glider, just like the Wright brothers. In honor of National Aviation Day, let’s make some straw gliders!

Activity: Straw Gliders

Materials List:

  1. Straws
  2. Tape
  3. Markers/crayons for decoration (optional)


Cut strips of paper that are about an inch wide. Cut half the strips to be 8-10 inches long and half the strips to be 6 inches long.

Set out your paper strips, straws, and tape. If you’d like to decorate your glider, you can color or draw a design on the paper strips. Otherwise, you’re ready to start building!

Try This!

  1. Take a short strip of paper, curl it into a ring, and tape the ends together.
  2. Take a short strip of paper, curl it into a ring, and tape the ends together.
  3. Take a long strip of paper, curl it into a ring, and tape the ends together.
  4. Tape a straw to the inside of the small and large rings.
  5. Your glider is complete! Hold it in the middle with the rings up.
  6. Throw your glider like a paper airplane!
  7. Try throwing your glider from different heights and angles. What makes the glider fly the farthest? The fastest?

Go Further

So how does the straw glider work? The rings of the glider act like the wings of an airplane or bird. The difference in air pressure above and below the rings is called “lift.” The air flows over the top and bottom of the glider. Since the air flowing over the top of the ring has farther to travel, it moves faster, creating a difference in pressure. As the two pressure airflows move toward each other, the glider rises. The big ring creates “drag” (air resistance) that helps keep the straw level, while the smaller ring keeps the glider from going off course.

If you’d like to go beyond teaching kids about gliders, you can talk about the science behind aviation and future opportunities in the field of aviation. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) curriculum webpage has some great resources for parents and teachers.


Thanks for reading Science and Play Connections, the Montana Science Center blog! We hope to see you in person at the Montana Science Center. Check out our website for information on our exhibits, programs, camps, and other offerings. Have a great day!