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Ready, Set, Launch: Make Your Favorite Critters Fly

Launch animals in the air and watch them spiral and float to the ground. This activity takes advantage of items you already have around the house. It also opens a world of experiments to get different results.

Ready, set, launch! (Photo by Suzy Lyttle)

What animals fly? Our minds instantly go to birds, but I challenge you to think of more animals. Insects like butterflies, beetles, dragonflies and even some ants take flight. The only mammal that can achieve true flight is the bat. However, flying squirrels come close to flying by gliding from branch to branch. Pick your favorite flying critter, and let’s make them launch!


(Photo by Suzy Lyttle)
  • Magazines, calendars or coloring books

  • Markers or crayons (optional)

  • A straw

  • Pen caps or marker caps

  • Scissors

  • Tape


1. Find your critter. Search through old magazines, calendars or coloring books to find the perfect critter to launch. Cut the animal out. Having trouble finding something? Print off this butterfly coloring sheet. If you want to color your animal, use markers or crayons to give your critter some personality.

2. Cap it. There always seems to be a pen cap or a marker cap that lost its companion. Tape the cap to the back of the cut-out critter.

3. Straw power. Use a straw to slide into the cap. Consider reusing a plastic straw. This is a perfect activity to do after lunch, using the same straw that was in your drink. What a great way to keep it out of the landfill! Better yet, paper straws and metal straws work fantastic too.

(Photo by Suzy Lyttle)

4. Ready to launch. Blow into the straw and watch your critter fly.

5. Tweak, test and experiment. Play with one factor at a time. Change the shape of the critter. Which shapes spin, float or fall straight down? Change the cap. A marker cap launches differently than a pen cap. Does a critter fall faster with a different cap? Take a closer look at your cap. Most caps have holes. What happens if you cover the holes with tape? Add in real animal adaptations. Owls have fringed feathers to help them fly silently. Does cutting fringed edges change how your launcher flies?


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