To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne.
Lee De Forest
There are very few topics I have found that so naturally lend themselves to STEM as model rocketry. I had the privilege to be named the very first Certified Rocketry Educator by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) , and am such a huge advocate of it that I use it for two years of curriculum in my classroom. I have also developed teacher workshops around model rocketry, and mention it as part of my teacher training on 3D printing. There are loads of free resources on the internet, a couple solid books on the topic, and piles of info and resources from the NAR, Apogee, Estes, NASA, and YouTube.
In subsequent posts I will go into great detail on two of my own Rocketry Units, but this is a general “Why Bother With Rockets” sort if post. As with other “Super Topic” general posts I will outline a few of the many areas in which a STEM category can be applied to Model Rocketry. (Note: The below standards info is intended to cover all types of rocketry including Stomp Rockets, Water Rockets, and Solid Fuel Model Rockets. Different types of rocketry are appropriate for different age groups. Use your discretion, and remember that safety is everyone’s job 1.)
Science/Engineering Standards NGSS:
- Kindergarten: I would concentrate on Stomp Rockets with this age group.
- Grade 3: I would still stick with Stomp Rockets here.
- Grade 4: Stomp Rockets are still appropriate, but I have also used Water Bottle Rockets, and even Solid Fuel Model Rockets from kits with this age group.
- Grade 5: Here my concentration would shift to Water Bottle Rockets and Solid Fuel Model Rockets.
- Grades 6 through 8: Unless you are doing, an incredibly robust design challenge with Water Bottle Rockets (Such as having your students design and 3D print all of the parts for one) middle school is the best place to introduce Solid Fuel Model Rocket projects either beginning with kits or doign builds from scratch. This is a good time to introduce the use of data into your lessons by tracking altitude.
- Grades 9 through 12: Depending on how you structure your units I would stick with Solid Fuel Rockets, but I would move away from kits, and into design & build challenges where a lot of data is used.
Math Standards Common Core Math:
As this post refers to rocketry in general as a STEM Super Topic it is more effective to think of rocketry in terms of the design problems, and data operations as opposed to grabbing specific standards for each grade. In your design assignments with rocketry, no matter the grade level you will always be able to come up with points where you can insert Counting & Cardinality, Operations & Algebraic Thinking, and Ratios & Proportional Relationships. When you begin to collect flight data you begin delving into both Geometry, and Measurement & Data. In fact, I’d wager to say that ion lesson design you can come up with just about any math lesson you need using rocketry. Rocketry, after all is pure science, and Math is the language of science.
Technology Education Standards:
As of right now there is no national technology education set of standards in America. Some states have adopted state based standards around technology, and you can check with your own state board of education to see if the below will apply. In the State of NH (Where I teach) we have Tech Ed standards broken out into several different topics including engineering. I have detailed above what engineering education looks like from the NGSS perspective, and those standards seem to jive well with our state engineering standards so I won’t dive into them again.
However, if you develop a design task that fits the NGSS Engineering standard for your particular grade level you should be fine. Additionally, Rockets are form of transportation, and in their construction students need to use tools. Students also needs to use a variety of materials to produce rockets, and can use computers (information technology) to design them. A great technology tag team for rocketry is a piece of free web based software called TinkerCad, and a 3D printer if you need emergent technology or drafting. (Note: Tinkercad requires, and email address to sign up, and parental permission if a student is under 14)
That about covers the general STEM standards that I use with rocketry (Feel free to do further research, and come up with your own). I will be writing a series of specific lesson plans for Model Rocketry in the future that will cover specific standards at the grade level the lesson is designed for, so stay tuned to the blog by signing up for our mailing list. Sign up widgets are at both the top of the home page, and bottom of the every page (Including this one). Thanks for stopping by.