In the fourth quarter of sixth grade at King’s Elementary, the students spend a considerable amount of time learning about forces and motion. Understanding of topics such as lift, drag, weight, thrust, acceleration, velocity and speed are some of key objectives of the unit. The lessons build on a field trip to the Museum of Flight that the students took earlier in the year.
Teachers begin with simple paper airplane design and construction to engage the students and give them hands on experience. Students study how drag affects speed by experimenting where and how best to glue on fins. They also look at basic math calculations related to the above factors.
To cap off the unit, they put their newly gained knowledge to the test in an annual model rocket building and launching event. The Great 6th-Grade Rocket Launch is one of the many great traditions we have at King’s. Principal Huling explained how it got started: “Elementary has followed OSPI Washington State Standards for curriculum since it was first accredited in the early 1980s. The 6th grade science curriculum emphasis is on physical science. Providing hands-on learning experiences in science for our students has always been a priority, so to make this unit come together, and to bring the written curriculum alive for students, rocketry was introduced about 30 years ago.”
King’s Alumna and Sixth Grade Teacher Katrina Peppler remembers launching rockets when she attended 6th grade back in the early 90’s. “Not a lot has changed in the actual rockets since I was here as a student, which reminds us that although tech is changing a lot, science still has a firm foundation that everything else is built on. We do teach more now about how the basic rockets we build in class connect to today’s space travel,” she said. “We are watching the Year in Space documentary and taking a look at what modern rockets and navigation controls look like today.”
This is a timeless learning experience and tradition. Parents and other classes at King’s come out to watch the launches. “When I began teaching here several years ago, I still had my rocket from 6th grade,” Peppler continued. “It’s a tradition for our students and their siblings to take the engines out and to keep their rockets to commemorate 6th grade.” Hopefully, this experience will inspire some future astronauts, pilots, aerospace engineers and rocket scientists!