Wednesday, August 26

Ultimate Ice Breaker? Making & Flying Paper Planes!

While watching the movie 'Paper Planes' (in Norway), I was struck by the idea of using Paper Planes as an Ice breaker and/or team building activity. Cheap, easy, fast and fun! Though, after Googling the idea, I quickly realized that it has already been discovered for just that. 

So, what I am going to share does not warrant a PhD (or an award), but it does have it's own recipe tailored to my taste.


This is what you should have to make your Paper Plane ice breaker/team building activity a success:
  • A long hallway or open space (Ideally 20 meters or longer)
  • Red tape (to mark the launch line) 
  • Measuring tape/stick (if possible)
  • A4 paper (80 - 120 mm, preferably different colors)
  • Stop watch (use smart phone or tablet)
  • Awards (e.g. chocolate bar for the winner)

Below are a few examples on how we can use paper planes as an ice breaker or team building activity to connect and engage participants involved. 


From one sheet of paper, participants are asked to design for example the coolest paper plane. If they want to decorate or color the paper plane that can be encouraged, but remember to set the rules before the game, otherwise some competitive participants could complicate things for the worse.

To make it more objective, you might want to add an evaluation rubric to guide participants for what the judging criteria is. Here you could encourage self or peer assessment. 

Another approach is to empower everyone to vote for the best paper plane. Here, we could use polling tools like Poll Everywhere (free version limited to 40 respondents), or Google Forms (unlimited respondents for free) if you have a larger group.  

Click here to discover how to make 50 amazing paper plane designs.


Instead of design, you could challenge the participants to throw their newly designed paper planes as far possible from a fixed spot (using red tape). Ideally, you need a long hallway, or an open space in or within close proximity of the workshop/training/class area. 

To differentiate between the paper planes, you could use A4 sheets of various colors.
How to make the world record paper plane for flying furthest?

Click here for more tips on designing and throwing a paper plane.


Instead of throwing furthest, you could challenge participants to make paper planes that fly for the longest time. For this, you would need a stop watch to measure the time for each paper plane participating. Also, here you could use Google Spreadsheet to keep all the times online, organized and fresh.

How to design a paper plane to beat the world record for flying a long time?


Have each participant write their name on a piece of paper, along with two interesting facts about themselves. Then have all participants fold their papers into a paper plane. Everyone should toss the paper plane into the air, then pick up one that lands nearby. The person picking up the paper plane must open it, read the information, and find the person it belongs to. This exercise has an element of play that will relax participants, and they will get to know someone else at the event by reading the information on the paper (Source).


Finally, to spice the activity further, ask participants to throw the paper plane towards a target. This could be everything from a cone, landing strip, bulls-eye to yourself. Having yourself as the target, could make the paper plane activity really fun, as participants will have a good laugh trying to hit you with their paper planes. Just keep some distance (7+ meters) to ensure you can react to avoid any injury.

All the best and don't be too serious about winning! Break the ice and have fun!


My first experiment with the Paper Plane Ice Breaker took place on the 27 August (2015) at UKM during our 'Designing 21st Century Flipped Learning Experiences' workshop. It was engaging and fun! Here are pictures from the workshop, including the Paper Plan Ice Breaker :)

UKM Flipped Learning Workshop

The winner of the first Paper Plane Ice Breaker is Dr. Zam! Congrats! Here is the winning moment captured:

So, why is it the ultimate icebreaker?

Not only can it be made relevant and contextualised to practically any subject (e.g. maths, engineering, sport psychology and history), all generations from Baby Boomers (remember old times!) to Generation Alpha (WOW! Something cool beyond a smart device) can do it, and have fun doing it while breaking the ice of any mood :)

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