Teaching Tips and Curriculum for Model Rockets

On this page, you'll find suggestions on teaching with model rockets, and links to other great rocketry sites where you can find other lesson plans dealing with model rockets.


Teaching Rocketry (Information Links)

Projects with Model Rockets - Click this link first. It will lead you to a two-part article that explain the benefits of using rockets in the classroom, and then give you some teaching ideas.


Books and Literature with Model Rocketry Lesson Plans:
Rockety Education Vol. 1NEW Rocketry Education DVD Vol 1

  • DVD: 1hr 20min
  • RockSim Demo
  • RockSim Powerpoint Presentation

This DVD was videotaped at a graduate course I presented for the Space Foundation as part of their summer institute course “Rocketry and the Biology of Living in Space, Space History, and Space Law.”

The purpose of my particular presentation was to give teachers a strong foundation in rocketry, so that they could be ready to take it back to their classrooms. There was particular emphasis on rocket propulsion and rocketry stability. In the rocket propulsion discussion, we talked about the physics - how rockets produce thrust, the types of propellants used in model rocketry, characteristics of high and low thrust motors, the nomenclature for rocket motors, the thrust curve, and how to select the best motor for a model rocket.

Conducting a Safe and Scientific Launch with Large Groups of Students This booklet teaches how to conduct the actual launch of a completed rocket kit in an exciting and safe manner (which mimics the countdown of NASA's Space Shuttle). Not only does it guide you through the launch, it shows you how to properly prepare for the launch so that maximum scientific value is obtained from the activity. Included are 5 activity sheets and 3 launch forms, which when completed, yield massive amounts of data which can be analyzed after the launch - so the learning experience doesn't end when the flight is over.

Educational Product that motivates!The many uses of RockSim in Your Classroom - Here is an article that explains the benefits to teachers of this powerful software.

RockSim lets you design awesome rockets.RockSim Educational Guide. Here are six lesson plans for 7th-12th graders that are based on National Educational Technology Standards. (9.7 Mb PDF document).

Export Data To ExcelHow to export RockSim simulation data to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and creating graphs so that you can compare one flight against another. It is a great way to teach students how to manipulate data in a spreadsheet (26 Mb QuickTime Video).


Download the FREE QuickTime Player

Developing Creativity Developing a child's problem solving and design skills takes on additional excitement when combined with model rocketry. This easy to use, step-by-step, booklet teaches the approaches used by creative people to help solve any problem.

Model Rocket Propulsion This two-volume publication explains in simple terms how a model rocket motor works, making it easy for you to teach. Through many hands-on demonstrations, you'll understand the basic principles of rocketry, and how model rocket motors are similar to the solid rockets used by the Space Shuttle to launch astronauts into orbit.

69 Science Fair Projects with Model Rockets: Aeronautics This book of science projects contains a gold-mine of innovative home and classroom rocketry projects designed specifically with science fair competitions in mind. This collection of model rocketry projects concentrates on aeronautics - the science of objects moving through air -- like rockets and airplanes. All the projects are easy-to-perform, so that even young students can explore this exciting subject. Students will develop an appreciation for the foundations of science - clear note taking and data gathering, concise thinking, adherence to procedure, curiosity, and patience.

Tracking Model Rockets - This newsletter article shows you how you can use triangulation to determine where your rockets landed. You can combine this great classroom project with some aerial photography and get some great data on your rocket's flight.

Rocket Grading Criteria Give your students more feedback about how well they are doing with this easy-to- use guide. It takes the guesswork and subjectivity out of assigning a classroom grade to your student's performance. Concise, yet flexible enough to be used with any rocketry curriculum.

The NAR has a few good lesson plans, but they are not listed on the internet. You'll have to see their catalog to learn more.

Want to learn about rocketry from the experts? Check out all of the great articles in the
Peak of Flight index.


Links to Other Site that Have Rocketry Lesson Plans:

Lesson plan for calculating the height of a rocket  (elementary level).

Lesson plan for making a home-made rocket out of readily available parts (elementary level)

Basic launch tips for use with large groups. This one comes from a girl scout troop.

Rocket, aeronautics and aviation lesson plans for elementary school teachers including experiments involving aerodynamics, how model rockets fly, thematic units, information about space craft, models, and rocketry for elementary school teachers in grades K-6. This is very simple stuff. But a good foundation on rocketry.


Tips Submitted by Other Teachers

Newsgroups: rec.models.rockets
Subject: Re: Help on Rocket Curriculum
Gregg Lind writes:

I am interested in any PowerPoint slides and presentation material on model rocketry. I am planning to have a 2-3 week class, that builds the rocket and launches them. I am also interested in teaching the kids how to judge or measure the height achieved by the rockets. The grade of the kids is 6th grade science class.

From: Eric Gunnerson
Date: Mon, 1 May 2000

I've done a few shorter (4-5 day) classes, 1 1/2 hour/day with 6-12 grade. I don't have any slide suggestions, but I do have some class suggestions.

I usually start by having them build a easy to build (estes level 1) rocket, with the gnome and x-ray being my usual choices. Then, we do a day of launch for that, and then go onto another rocket. If I only have 4 days, I'd go with an assortment of kits; if I have longer, letting them do custom designs is more fun, and a bit more educational. This January I did a class where all the kids did a custom design, which I then simmed on RockSim to make sure they were stable. They had a lot more fun on those than we did the previous years with kits.

For launch, you're going to want to have two pads. I usually split the class into two groups; one to launch, and one to retrieve. It will help things immensely if you prep the engines for them, so you can just hand out an engine with an starter already in it. If you don't do this, it will take lots more time, and you'll see around a 40% failure rate on launches.

One year we used the Estes Altitrac to measure the height, which will work well if you have a big enough field. If the field is small, sport flyers on C engines will go high enough to give you pretty big error.

You might also consider trying to do speed measurements; the easiest way would be with a videotape recorder that does single-frame playback, and a known scale behind the pad(s).


Check the Links below using the Wayback Machine!
Wayback MachineIf you find any dead links, don't give up. Try using the Wayback Machine! It will allow you to read the text of old web sites that may not be active any longer. http://www.archive.org

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If you find more links that are needing to be moved here, please let us know!

Lift-off by Steve Bachmeyer. Great curriculum book written for high school students, but can be also used at the elementary level.

Excellent collection of teaching ideas that revolve around rocketry and space. Indexed by different course studies.

Rocket Fin Design Activity - Each team will produce fin sets of various sizes and thickness using the same shape and material. The teams will then produce rockets with these fins and test each for performance. You might want to check out our Optimum Fin Shape article too.

Students built model rockets, calculated their maximum height and finally launched the rocket to find how high it really would go.  With a low powered engines we were able to see results within 15% of our predicted height.

Lesson plans for space k-12. Not many of the plans use model rocketry, but it is worth taking a look.

Pitsco suggests using a model rocket altitude contest to motivate students to learn. The rules are pretty simple, and can be easily modified to use parts from Apogee Components.

Building and flying a model rocket in a classroom.

Rocketry for Educators by Vincent Oraze

Here you'll find a sample course outline to Bring the Concepts in Science and Mathematics to Life Through the Experience of Building and Launching a Model Rocket

A Teacher's Guide to Rocketry from NASA

Rocketry curriculum from 4H

Sample math problems based on space missions.

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