Download and print the Tumblewing Glider template from the Resources tab.
Cut out the template, and fold along the lines of the leading edges and winglets.
By way of demonstration, fold the winglets (outer edges) up at 90°.
And, bend the leading edge (front) down slightly and the trailing edge (back) up.
Hold your glider by one of the leading edges (the pointing-up one) so that it sits slightly in front of your hand.
In your other hand, hold the cardboard so that its upper edge is positioned directly underneath and a little behind the glider. Maintain an 80° angle at all times.
Gently release the glider from your fingertips, and watch as it begins to tumble (top edge turns towards you.)
Immediately, place both hands on the cardboard and attempt to keep the top edge of the board just behind the glider at all times as you walk forward.
Encourage lots of trial and error in an attempt to achieve continuous flight.
How To Play Narrative
If you were told that it was possible to keep a paper plane aloft forever, you wouldn’t believe it, would you?
Take a look at this video to get a sense of what is possible. Intrigued? I was hooked immediately. Tumblewing Gliders are one of the most enchanting and curious paper-plane inventions ever conceived.
In advance, download the Tumblewing Glider document (from the Resources tab) and print the template at the back of the guide which tells you everything you need to know.
Step by step, here’s what you need to do…
You’ll need one glider template and a large sheet of very stiff cardboard (at least 50 x 80cm) for every person or group you want to involve. Cut out the templates yourself or supply scissors to invite your group to do the legwork later on.
By way of demonstration, and perhaps following a fascinating introduction (see Framing Ideas tab,) show your group how to fold the wings and winglets of the glider.
The Tumblewing will only fly straight if it is symmetrical, so you must bend along the lines precisely:
Fold the winglets (outer edges) up at 90°; and
Bend the leading edge (front) down slightly and the trailing edge (back) up.
Continuing your demonstration, hold your glider by one of the leading edges (the pointing-up one) so that it sits slightly in front of your hand.
And, in your other hand, hold the large cardboard so that its upper edge is positioned directly underneath and a little behind the glider. Maintain an 80° angle at all times.
The next step is simply a matter of trial and error. Gently release the glider from your fingertips, and watch as it begins to tumble. If you have it right, it should tumble with its top edge turning towards you.
Immediately, place both hands on the cardboard and attempt to keep the top edge of the board just behind the glider at all times. As you move forward, you will cause an updraft of air to hit the glider, allowing it to – in theory – tumble and travel forwards forever.
Like all good science, don’t expect your glider to work perfectly the first time, or indeed, every time. There are many variables that may need tweaking, such as the angle of the wings and winglets, the positioning and angle of the board, the pace at which you travel, etc.
Note, one of the biggest variables is the movement of air around the glider. Ideally, you want an indoor area that is free from drafts or uncontrolled air movements.
Practical Leadership Tips
One suggestion – try printing the template directly onto telephone book paper (using your printer) to save time/hassle.
In case you’re wondering, no, you cannot do this exercise with regular 80gsm paper. Too heavy.
From my limited experience, the best flights are achieved in a large, still room (eg school hall or gymnasium.) The outdoors is a recipe for disaster, and so can be draughty or heavily air-conditioned spaces. Even the movement of others close by can cause a Tumblewing to crash and burn!
How does it work? Well, for a start, there are no strings attached – it’s all physics. Tumblewings are kept aloft by the air rushing up and over the cardboard paddle – just like a real plane – and the winglets keep the glider’s forward motion stable. Click this link to view a short YouTube video of a successful Tumblewing Glider flight.
You could integrate Tumblewing Glider as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Having A Growth Mindset
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a simulated flight exercise.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully keep one’s glider aloft may speak to the benefits of being resilient because achieving a long flight time often demands a lot of trial and error.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Tumblewing Glider could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Glider Contests: Once a good level of flight knowledge has been gained, initiate a series of competitions to determine who can fly their glider the longest, or the straightest, or around a circle, etc.
Inspiration Plus: Take a look at the Walkalong Aeroplane – this blows my mind! Click the link to view a video of Phil Rossoni who is generally regarded to have popularised this amazing levitation experience.
Plane Puzzle: Take a look at Mystery Aeroplane, another fun and intriguing paper-plane exercise that will challenge your group to find a solution.
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Useful Framing Ideas
My guess is that everyone here has folded a paper-plane at least once in their lifetime. And in my experience, the best I could do was achieve a flight of about four seconds, before it nose-dived into the ground. Sound familiar? So, realistically, how long do you think it is possible to keep a paper-plane aloft? Ten seconds? Fifteen seconds? The world’s record is 27.6 seconds, held by Ken Blackburn of the USA. Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that we now have the technology to absolutely smash Ken’s record…
Like most people, I don’t really understand how such a large, heavy piece of equipment, such as an aeroplane, can be kept aloft in the air for hours at a time. Even if I don’t understand anything about how aerodynamics works, I’m just glad that planes can do what they do. Today, we’re going to experiment with the exact same aerodynamic science that keeps planes in the air, and apply it to a piece of paper, and keep it in the air as long as possible…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fascinating paper-plane stunt:
What did you think when the activity started?
What word would you use to describe your thinking when you first saw the glider fly?
What moves or tweaks did you discover worked best for you in terms of flight?
What tweaks in your work or life could you make to improve your performance?
The inspiration for Tumblewing Glider was sourced from a series of YouTube videos in which a number of these amazing paper-planes were demonstrated.