by Dave Protti
The seventh grade curriculum at Trinity Episcopal School includes a semester of physical science. As their science teacher, I incorporate model rocketry as a hands-on activity to reinforce the study of motion. Students build their rockets from kits.
I was first introduced to model rocketry as a teaching tool by a representative from Estes Rocketry. I attended a workshop for teachers of Gifted and Talented students in Jefferson Parish Schools around 1983. I have been using model rockets in the classroom for over 20 years now.Whenever I taught a physical science curriculum, I tried to work it into the lesson plan.
Building the models allow the students to use a variety of skills including: Process skills such as measuring, the use and manipulation of numbers, following directions, communication, recording and analyzing data, comparing and contrasting data, making observations and predictions.
The students really enjoy the activity; they look forward to it. The analysis of the flight provides significant reinforcement to the classroom lesson as well as tremendous satisfaction of their accomplished construction.
Students realize the sum of their efforts and the laws of physics when they witness their rockets accelerating skyward on launch day, not to mention the emotions involved in ownership and the risks of actually flying their creation.
Students will always opt to do hands-on activities. However, the teacher must design such experiences with enough structure and method to make it an educational experience.
The lessons are studies of Newton¹s Laws of motion:
- Objects at rest will stay at rest, an objects in motion will stay in motion in a straight line at constant velocity unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
- Force is equal to mass times acceleration.
- For every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction.