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Quick Science: Tear Up Your Scrap Paper

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An activity you might use to practice using information you have to predict what might happen next.

This could be a team activity. Use a teacher demonstration to introduce the activity and then have each team try it with one variation. Report results to the class.

Prep: Turn a sheet of scrap paper so that it’s landscape (wider than taller). Make two cuts a couple of inches long from the top of the paper so that the paper would be cut into three roughly equal parts if you continued cutting that paper.


Want to challenge capable kids? Try different kinds of paper. What if it’s a scrap of hand made paper that may not have a grain? What if it’s a sheet of wax paper, construction paper, or railroad board?

Hold the paper from each side and pull trying to tear the paper into three pieces.

Is it possible? Probably not.

One of the cuts continues and the paper is torn into two pieces. You’re left with a sheet of paper with a cut in it that did not tear.

What’s happening? One of the cuts is weaker than the other cut. The weaker cut tears the paper into two pieces. The stronger cut does not tear.

Now change the activity. It’s scraps of leftover paper, right? Here are a few variations to consider:

  • What if you make three cuts?
  • What if you make cuts closer to the middle or to the edges of the paper?
  • What if you cut the paper in portrait mode (taller than wider)?

Want to save paper? Cut each sheet of scrap paper into quarters and have students try to cut and tear smaller sheets of scrap paper.


Quick Science suggestions take minimal prep time and use common materials.

One thought on “Quick Science: Tear Up Your Scrap Paper

  1. Love this activity! A mini-STEM thinking project where they can rip up paper… what more could my 4th graders want!

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