Middle School Science Students Ready to Take Off

Jackie Pisani
We’re not exaggerating when we say that all our Form 2 students are rocket scientists. In order to learn about the scientific method (observing, questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, and analyzing), Middle School science teachers Josh Garrison and Clay Miles, devised a two-week design- thinking project where the students were tasked to utilize the scientific method to aid in the design, construction and launch of a rocket to hit a target 150 feet away from the launch site.

“This project is more than students just knowing facts. We challenge them to explain those facts and apply them to something new. Our ultimate goal is not “What do you know?” but  rather“What can you do with what you know?” "How can you apply it?"" How can you process it?" That permeates everything we do. And, building the rockets were a great way to have fun with the scientific method,” Miles said.

In the first phase of the project, the teachers introduced the students to the basic principles of physics and the engineering behind rocketry and discussed possible engineering and design processes. Prior to the construction of the prototype rocket, student teams of three discussed how certain variables like fin type, rocket length, mass and angle of launch might influence the rockets’ launch and flight path. They then built the prototype rockets composed of various materials: construction paper for the fuselage, thicker manila folder stock paper for the nose cone and pieces of playdough for the masses that they put in the nose cone.

After launching their prototypes of different designs, the students gathered the data of the distance, height, length of flights and speed of rocket to determine which rocket design elements were most effective in reaching the target. Examining tables worth of data entered into a class-wide data Google sheet, the students ordered the information and analyzed it to select which final rocket to design based on modifications and redesign. All the teams constructed three identical rockets for the launch. On the day of the launch, the high humidity became a factor, and the students learned about the impact of unexpected variables.

Following the experiment, the students wrote a conclusion about the physics of their rocket and explained the importance of aerodynamics behind it. Using the data from the initial launches, the student explained their logic and reasoning to select the final set of rockets that were built. Lastly, the students reflected about how the process itself helped them solve a problem. By collaborating and problem solving with their peers, students are developing 21st-century skills that are necessary to compete for the jobs of the future.

Click here to see a video of the launch.
Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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