Ocheyedan Mound

Flying High

(2nd-6th grades/20-30 minutes)

Activity in Brief:

Students will hold a pencil and balance a piece of paper, watching it begin to move because of the heat created from their hands.


Using a short demonstration, students will discover how thermals work.

Correlation with Science Standards:

Unifying Concepts and Processes- Systems, Order and Organization

Unifying Concepts and Processes- Form and Function

Science as Inquiry- Abilities to do Science Inquiry

Science as Inquiry- Understanding About Scientific Inquiry

Physical Science- Position and Motion of Object

Life Science- Characteristics of Organisms

Life Science- Organisms and their Environment

Advance Prep:



Pencil with a sharp point, paper “wing” cut out


Thermals are pockets of warm air that rise due to heat being released from the land below. Both birds and butterflies use these thermals to travel long distances with less effort. Watch groups of hawks (kettles) in the fall, as they gather to migrate south using thermals.


Trace the wing pattern on paper and cut out. Make a crease on dotted line and then open it up. Hold on to a pencil half way down and use your other hand to balance the paper on the tip of the pencil. Hold it steady and watch what happens. The paper “wings” begin to twirl because of the heat created from your hands.Try using thicker or thinner paper, making the “wing” pattern larger. What happens?

Adapted from: Insectigations, by Cindy Blobaum

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