They’re Not Winging It, Paper Airplanes Are Practical In This Class (+podcast)

Wednesday, October 18 2023 by Richard D. Hunt

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Theology student readies a 'response flight' in Dr. Arnold's class
Cedarville University
Theology student readies a 'response flight' in Dr. Arnold's class

“I encourage my students to answer questions and bring up points and respond to me in various ways through paper airplanes,” explains Dr. Jonathan Arnold. “They write their name on a paper airplane at the beginning of class. They have to make their paper airplanes, so they get good at that over the course of a semester – and then when they want to engage, they throw that in and hopefully don’t hit anybody in front of them. And that allows me to acknowledge them and engage at the right time.”   

Currently, Dr. Arnold teaches Theology I and Theology II in the Bible minor. Students from all majors take Bible minor classes during their time at Cedarville University.

The Q&A flights are not only fun, but also very practical. “It provides not only an opportunity for students to be engaged from wherever they are in the classroom – sometimes you can’t see a hand, but you can almost always see an airplane.” Another benefit, since each paper airplane has the name of the student, it helps Dr. Arnold keep better track of student engagement, who’s asking about what, how much they’re taking part in class. Students can even get extra credit for the number of planes they sail that are clearly related to the course.

Student writes note on paper airplane
[Photo Credit: Cedarville University] Student writes note on paper airplane

Since the professor is the intended target for the planes, we wondered if he’s always able to see them coming? “Usually, I can. There are times – depending on where we are in the semester – when I’ll have my back turned, writing on the board or something – and students will get good at aiming.”

Does he ever wish there was a control tower? He laughs, “Yeah, that would be nice.”  

Fun aside, seeing students fly high when it comes to faith in Christ is a major reward for Dr. Arnold. “Being able to work with those students, as they come into contact with some of the deeper ideas about who God is, and how the people of God are supposed to work together – and watching their eyes light up – that’s ultimately what makes you come back in the next day. 

Final folding before aiming at the professor
[Photo Credit: Cedarville University] Final folding before aiming at the professor

And even when your lecture is not going as you wanted it to, or you think you just kind of missed it…and then you have the perfect question come up (or fly in) at the right time, or the student comes up after class and says, ‘You know that’s the first time I’ve understood that concept,’ that just reminds you of how God is using you.”  

We’ve got our full podcast interview for you just below:

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