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Make a kids’ Catapult Plane with recycled materials

Recycling Week is all about encouraging Kiwis to adopt effective recycling habits.

But it isn’t just about aiming for the right coloured bin, it’s also about finding new ways to reuse or upcycle ordinary items that we don’t need anymore.  For families, this can be a lot of (sustainable) fun. 

Whether it’s a cardboard box hut or a pirate hat made from your local paper many parents already find creative ways to entertain their kids with upcycling. 

From egg cartons to old newspapers, plastic bottles to empty cans; your household trash can take on a whole new life and it’s a fabulous, free and fun way for kids to play. 

But upcycling can be educational too. Science educator, Dr Michelle Dickinson, co-founder of Nanogirl Labs is a big believer in the using everyday household items for her now famous experiments to help break down the barriers for science. 

Michelle has developed easy science experiments and STEM activities for kids aged 6-11, using things you’ll find around the house.

“At Nanogirl Labs, we believe that everyone, everywhere should have access to STEM learning. Using accessible items in our experiments is one of the most important ways we can break down barriers for Kiwi families, so that science learning opportunities are not financially out of reach. You don’t need fancy science kits and equipment – just easy access to your recycling bin.” 

One of her flight-inspired experiments – the Catapult Plane – teaches upcycling and engineering with items found lying around the house. 

“Our Catapult Plane is one of our most popular experiments with both kids and parents. With a bit of engineering you can transform a few ordinary house items into aircraft. Kids not only learn about the ways we can re-purpose and recycle household items but in the process, they learn about the science of thrust and how it helps planes to fly,” says Michelle. 

In the experiment kids must challenge themselves to make their plane fly further or higher. Once they have made their first Catapult Plane, their manual will set them up to tinker and re-engineer things to see how small changes might affect its flight.

“This is where the real learning happens, and your child will be developing their STEM skills as well as confidence around trying new things in an activity that feels like play.”

The best part is you can still recycle it later. 

What you need

  1. Paper
  2. Scissors 
  3. A hair tie or rubber band

    For parents worried about not knowing what to do – don’t worry, there’s a cheat sheet just for you, and all the instructions are available here

    Have fun and upcycle!
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