When the fruit of the maple tree turns into a helicopter

Flying, twirling and travelling like a seed or a helicopter? Learn to make your own paper helicopter using our activity sheet! This activity is proposed as part of the “Vive nos arbres” project, aimed at promoting the heritage of Geneva’s trees.

Hélicoptère en papier tournoyant devant des feuilles d'arbres

This activity involves folding and cutting a sheet of paper to make a helicopter. If it is not raining, you can then take it for a test flight outside. At the same time, you can compare your flying machine to maple tree or lime tree seeds which fall to the ground using the same principle.


20 minutes


  • templates (to be downloaded at the bottom of this page)
  • scissors
  • paper clips
  • a sheet of A4 paper (or bigger), if desired
  • a ruler, if desired
  • a grey pencil, if desired
  • string, if desired

Step-by-step guide to making your helicopter

  • Print the helicopter templates (large or small format);
  • Cut around the edge and along the solid lines (cf. photos);
  • Fold along the dotted lines;
  • Add a paper clip at the bottom of the “mast” for ballast.

Making your helicopter fly

To test its flight capabilities outside, place it in a raised location (at the top of a flight of steps, upright on a bench, on a wall, etc.). Fold the two blades against the helicopter mast and release it. If the prototype is successful, it will rotate around its own axis until it reaches the ground. 

Ideas for games

Take the fruit of a lime tree (in summer) or maple tree (in autumn) and compare the way it flies to the way your helicopter flies.

Organise a helicopter competition, for example the machine that stays in the air the longest, the machine that turns the most, the best decorated machine, etc.

Attach a string to the paper clip and pull your helicopter along as you run. The speed will make it twirl.

Did you know?

Each tree has its own strategy for dispersing its seeds. With a maple tree, we refer to wind dispersal or “anemochory”. Other trees using wind dispersal include lime trees, ash trees, elms, poplars, willows and birch trees.


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Article modifié le 27.02.2020 à 08:39