Our first activity for Hands on Science was building and launching paper rockets. We had a blast with it! My older class went first and I was a little surprised with how much help they needed. But their help was mostly centered around how to hold their papers tightly while cutting off tape. Once they figured out how to help each other things went much smoother.
I had them create their rocket with a cone and fins, but didn’t give any specs for the fins. Most of them noticed that their did funny things in the air, so I would offer suggestions, “maybe you want your fins balanced around the rocket?” or “maybe your fins should be longer and taper off?” They were welcome to take the suggestions of leave them. Most tried to make it fly more steady though.
I let the kids launch their own rockets and about half way through the first class the teenage boys blew out the bottom of my 2l soda bottle. It’s a good thing I was at home and could just go empty out another and tape it on. Speaking of tape, we went through a surprising amount of electrical tape! So if you make these for a large group, over plan…
The younger class, which has just over 20 kids, was crazy, but that was expected, so I recruited some moms to help me with rolling and taping. By the end of the two classes I was exhausted since I was on launcher duty and the bottle had to be reflated after each launch.
With the younger class I just had them make the rocket body, then we started launching. Almost all of them noticed that their rockets would somersault through the air. Just like with the older kids, I offered suggestions that would help stabilize the rocket, but let them decide if they wanted to try and improve their design or not. Most of the littler kids didn’t care, but the older ones of this group did try and make their rockets fly better.
The kids had so much fun with the paper rockets. We made the launcher adjustable so they could shoot their rocket way up high, or down the street, or anything in between. Several of the kids in each class decided to try and catch the launched rockets as they came back down.
I used this video to build my launcher