Real STEM integration with "Straw Rockets"

With over 90% of Fox Hill’s fifth graders on their annual trip to Bournedale a rare opportunity for “flexible scheduling” presented itself to classroom teacher, George Norman and I when contemplating what to do with seven students hoping for their own special experiences during “Camp Foxy.”

Ultimately we elected to shoot for the stars with a ‘straw rockets’ project aimed at bringing all the STEM disciplines together answering one simple question: “What angle should we launch a rocket to make it travel the furthest distance?”

At what launch angle will the rocket travel the farthest?

 Our directed inquiry project circled around two major learning goals: 1) To give students an opportunity to execute an experiment that would lead to an evidence-supported conclusion and 2) practice the measurement of distance using metric units and angles using a protractor. Students were asked to predict which angle they believed would launch their rockets the farthest. Students were asked to access what they already knew about the topic by considering how they throw objects such as baseballs or footballs long distances. They were then put to work assembling their own rockets to experiment with!

Following simple directions to build a simple ‘straw rocket.’

Straw rockets are simple enough to build and have only six steps of assembly. Students found it easy to construct when a model rocket was able to be examined and replicated using their own tools. The materials are cheap and assembly requires only scissors, tape and a pencil. When all rockets were ready the students democratically selected a launch site. The weather was good so we went out to the school’s front walkway to experiment.

Measuring launch to landing using metric measuring tapes.

Not every launch was straight ahead! Students deliberated over what launches were “fair.”

Students were very excited to try their rockets out and experimentation did get a bit messy! It was great to hear students deliberate over whether launches were “fair.” One unexpected problem we faced as teachers were some unexpected results! Despite the students’ short statures there was enough height provided to the initial launch point that students frequently fired their 20 degree launches further than the 45 degree angle, leading to puzzled reactions from some students when their results didn’t match up with their ‘sure-thing’ predictions.

After lunch we through in a third goal by asking students to communicate what they had learned and how they had learned it via a short “Show Me” presentation using some iPads available in the school. With two full hours in the afternoon at our disposal I was able to give an eight-minute tutorial on the app to the students who were then set free with the guidelines of creating a four part presentation (see below.)

Simple guidelines given for a four-part presentation using ‘Show Me’ app
Students were willing and able to jump right in despite no previous exposure to ‘Show Me’ app.

In fairness to the students, the Show Me app leaves much to be desired in the way of editing work and organizing a presentation. I much prefer the Explain Everything app for such activities. That being said, the students gave their best efforts given the parameters and lack of time to develop any real script or outline for themselves.


About MrMusselman

K-5 Science Specialist for the Burlington Public Schools of Burlington, MA.
This entry was posted in Classroom Activities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Real STEM integration with "Straw Rockets"

  1. Pingback: How to Host a Successful Science Night | Musselman / Science

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