Kids Don’t Get Paper Airplanes Anymore

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I was folding a paper airplane in my office after a visiting middle-schooler laid her botched first effort in front of me. I looked at the crumpled mess of her first attempt and I found I could literally throw a piece of trash farther than the plane. I told her she needed to consider her starting point before she began folding. She shook her head and I requested she follow some steps as I pulled two pieces of paper from the printer handing her one.  I would share my time-tested airplane formula learned from a classmate in the third grade. Do what I do ok? She nodded then proceeded to watch me as if I were a skilled watchmaker.

As we followed the steps I explained this plane was a very precise piece of technology designed to be a glider. She looked at me confused wondering if I had lost my mind.

“This isn’t technology” she said, a shy, embarrassed smile crossing her face at my ignorance.

“Really?” I responded, “then how can you explain this?” I tossed the plane at the ceiling where it bounced off at an angle before peacefully floating downward in a mesmerizing spiral.  She laughed as the plane landed in her hands, then ran off to play with it in a larger room.

I thought about how much fun I had throwing the same plane around the gym of my elementary school. Yes, a video fighter jet is much more impressive than my piece of folded paper, but this simple interaction with invention can inspire creativity and fun. I hope we all remember to take some time with kids to promote exploration beyond a computer screen.

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