Rocket Science in Fourth Grade

by Michael Porter
With an eye for precision, the teams of junior rocket scientists carefully align the fins on their rockets, fashioned from cardboard and a 2-liter soda bottle. With the help of some cutting tools and hot glue, our fourth graders are preparing for the annual rocket launch.
In Makerspace and the Tech Lab, the fourth graders have been learning about the challenges of living and working in space.
"We studied the International Space Station (ISS), and the effects space has on the human body over time," said Science Specialist, Deborah Landon.
In a microgravity environment, there is no up or down, and objects that would normally be pulled to ground by gravity just float around. To exist in such a place, humans must make certain adaptations for doing everyday things we take for granted.
Ms. Landon demonstrated the challenges of getting exercise in the ISS.
"I had them do a push-up," Ms. Landon said. "Then I taught them space push-ups so they could see the difference. A space push-up is done against a lab table."

The students learned about how NASA transported the modules of the Space Station in the payload by of the now-retired Space Shuttle, on piece at a time. The astronauts assembled the units by hand while in orbit around the Earth.
And, on Friday, October 27, the students got to see one of the shuttles in person when they went on their annual field trip to the Kennedy Space Center.

In Tech Lab, Ms. Cristina Knodel has the students using design thinking to solve problems that humans may encounter during long stints in space.
With the amazing expansion of space launch activity with private companies such as SpaceX coming on the scene, the studies of space science is more important than ever. Much of that activity is happening right here in Florida.
"You can see it happening in real time, in real life, down the road from us," said Ms. Landon. "We are helping to develop the future explorers."
Fourth grader Jiji S. said it best: "There might be other planets like Earth out there, and with humans on it, or animals, or unicorns!"

The Rocket Has Cleared the Tower

The unit on space science came to a grand conclusion when the students launched their "bottle rockets" from the main field.
It was exciting to watch as the students pumped air into their rocket, with a little help from Facilities Team Lead Patrick Grant when the air pressure built up and the pumping got harder. The rockets were fashioned from a 2-liter soda bottle and some homemade fins, were partially filled with water.
When the string was pulled and the pressure was released, off the launch pad the rocket went!
Parents and some groups of students from younger grades gathered around to cheer on the teams as they counted down for each launch.
Although not as spectacular as a SpaceX rocket deploying satellites, it was just as exciting to our fourth graders who built and launched these rockets themselves.