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Quick Science: Tear Up Your Newspaper

A drawing of a skull with a striped background Got a sheet of newspaper? A few minutes?

Here’s another simple, fun activity that you might use to build excitement for science while students practice guessing and explaining what might happen next.

A capable student could demonstrate this for classmates or you might send it home to share with family members. It could be an introduction to how scientists sort things like elements or leaves because there’s an order to those materials that is predictable.


Try this with your newspaper before showing it to students so you know the grain of the paper.

Hold the paper at the top and tear it vertically. Moving across the top of the paper, continue to tear, creating narrow strips of paper.

What happens if you turn the paper ninety-degrees and tear? Turn the paper and students see that the paper doesn’t tear into narrow strips. The tears seem crooked or might curve off to one side. You end up with scraps of paper.

The paper is made using a machine that lines up the raw material that makes up the paper in a grain, in a direction. The tears you make follow (or don’t follow) that direction. (More about this in paragraph 4.)


Want to extend the activity? Try different kinds of paper like copy paper or fancy letterhead paper. What happens if you tear unusual kinds of paper like tissue paper, toilet paper, gift wrap, or wax paper? Students can bring in samples of your to try with the class.


Caution: Choose carefully the parts of the newspaper you’re tearing. Sometimes headlines or images can be disturbing to students, especially young students.


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