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What determines the direction and speed of a whirlygig?


strips of paper 3 cm x 14 cm and 1.5 cm x 10.5 (optional: scissors and colored markers)


1. Make a whirlygig by following the directions given below

2. Stand and hold the whirlygig at head height and drop it.

3. View it from above and record your observations.

Summing Up:

1. How did it spin? Do all whirlygigs within the group or class spin the same direction?

2. Can you make it spin the other way? How?

3. Does the size make a difference in the spin? If so, what is the difference?

4. Write a rule so that given any whirlygig you could accurately predict the spin direction and spin rate?

5. Where in the real world or in nature do you see anything that resembles a whirlygig?

6. What is the purpose of a whirlygig in nature?

7. Make the larger whirlygig fall faster and describe the process you used to make it fall faster.

8. What are the scientific explanations for the motions of the whirlygig?

9. What other spinning motions occur in nature? in toys?


The following procedure will assist you in making the whirlygig.


strips of paper (3 cm x 14 cm)

strips of paper (1.5 cm x 10.5 cm)


2 different colored markers


1. Cut the large strip in the middle,

from the top as shown in the

first illustration. The cut should

extend down about one-third of

the length.

2. About an index finger's width below

the first cut, you are to cut in from

each side. Each of these cuts should

extend in about one-third of the width

(see first illustration).

3. As indicated in the first illustration,

crease and fold the outside sections

over the middle section of the bottom.

4. Spread to the top flaps out to form the

Y-shape shown in the second illustration. Also,

fold the bottom 1-2 centimeters to form a hook.

5. Optional-color the top flaps two different colors with

marking pens.