Space Week - Rocket Science

I’m Elise Brimhall, the Education Program Manager at PBS Utah. I have my BA in Education from Westminster College and have taught preschool, 2nd grade, and 6th grade in Salt Lake and Granite School Districts.

With the COVID-19 situation impacting every day life, schools have closed, education centers have closed, most of us are working from home, and many are now responsible for entertaining and educating children in the home 24/7. It’s a big task and I know it can feel overwhelming! I want to help by sharing hands-on activities we have created here at PBS Utah for our Ready To Learn Family Nights, as well as activities from PBS KIDS, and resources from our community partners. These activities will focus on literacy and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), and all of them align with the core standards.

Starting today, I will be sharing easy, educational activities you can do with your children using materials you already have at home. Each week will be a different theme, and I’ll be sharing 1 activity each day Monday through Friday.

Let’s kick it off with a space theme! Last summer we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and our fascination with space exploration hasn’t slowed down. NASA has an incredible image gallery you can access for free, including an image of the day. Check out the images here to get inspiration for your rocket launch:

Today we are going to build and launch our own paper rockets!

Build Your Own Rocket


Supplies needed:

  • Sharpened pencil or pen
  • Scissors
  • 2 Pieces of Paper
  • Straw
  • Ruler or measuring tape (optional)

At home if you don’t have something to measure an exact measurement, use something else like paperclips, stuffed animals, socks. For example, “The rocket launched across the kitchen a length of 15 stuffed animals.” Using objects, or nonstandard units of measurement, is still a great way to practice measuring and can even be more fun with your little ones.

Activity Instructions:

  1. Print the worksheet we have provided (see above pdf - Print Straw Rocket Template).
  2. Cut out the shapes from the worksheet or cut out a rectangle 6 ¾ x 1 ¼ inches.
  3. Cut out the rocket fins: if you don’t have a printer, you can draw your own by using ours as a template. They are about 1 ¾ inches tall by 2 inches wide.
  4. Tape the rectangle length-wise around your pencil to form a long tube, or the rocket body.
  5. Twist the nose of the rocket around the pencil to form the pointed nose cone.
  6. Tape the two rocket fins to the back of the rocket body with the fins pointing to the back.
  7. Bend the fins so that they form a + shape. Look at the Print Straw Rocket Directions pdf above to see what it should look like.

Now it’s time to let it fly! Set up a course to launch the rockets. This would be a great activity to do outside in your driveway or on the sidewalk if it isn’t windy outside. Put the straw inside the rocket and blow into the straw to launch it. Launch your rocket at different angles to see at which angle it flies the farthest. Launch your rocket three times, measuring the distance flown each time, tracking it on a sheet of paper. Now, see if you can build a better rocket. This time, make a longer nose cone. Test it! How far does the second rocket fly? Continue testing until you make the fastest and farthest flying rocket!

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