In our previous lesson, we did tesselations and during our last couple o minutes of that lesson, a student told me that they still felt like they were in school. I mean, you hear that and you are like ‘well, you are in school’ but what they meant was that it was boring. Since it is an afterschool program that students are practically done with everything. So, my partner Rafael and I decided to have something outside.
We decided to do something so amazing that no students would say no or would be bored. Rafael and I decided to make water powered bottled rockets! I wanted the students to have the most fun, but still learn, and have them be outside on a beautiful day. We figured that many would want to go outside because they were very energetic inside the classroom.
For our lesson, we decided to stay away from math and go into science.
- Students will design and construct a Hydro powered bottle rockets to demonstrate critical thinking of design choices.
- Specifically fins and nose cones
- Students will compare and contrast different design choices to demonstrate analytical thinking about material choices and relationships.
- Fin material in relation to the bottle or what material to use for the nose cone.
Taken from the following NextGenScience Standards
- ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
- Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process—that is, some of those characteristics may be incorporated into the new design. (MS-ETS1-3)
- Structure and Function
- Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account the properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used. (MS-PS1-3)
This activity is a makerspace exercise. That is, students will have materials and be asked to create something functioning out of them. In this case, the students made water powered bottle rockets. We started off by splitting the group of students into two groups. Half of the group went with Rafael and the other half went with me. We told the students that today was going to be about building rockets and have them create it themselves with the following materials.
The materials available to the students are
- A 2-liter bottle
- Duct tape
- Construction paper
The purpose of the fins is to add stability to the rocket. That is why this is a big focus point of the lesson. The cone also helps with having the rockets go much higher since it helps its power through with its pointy cone.
We let the students design and pick the material for the fins. Choose a material for the nose cone and tape it all together. As the facilitator in my group, I guided the students in design choices to ensure they were going in the right direction. I challenged the students to explain and defend their reasoning in the group, so that the decision they made was the best, and not ‘just because.’ We had about 30-35 minutes to build the rockets and my team was going a bit slower, just because one did not want to participate and the other was too excited and was a bit distracted. After both groups were done working on the rockets, we launched them using a bicycle pump.
In the end, Rafael and I decided to ask the class what they would have changed and seen why it is that Rafael’s rocket might have gone higher than us. That way we can see if they learned and see how they would have changed things. This is a way to see if they were able to reflect on their decisions and in the future, or if we had time, have them revise the rocket to make it go higher than Rafael’s group.
Many of these students had never seen a rocket or may not have the money to buy ones that are already premade. So, our lesson went against the inequalities that some of these students may have, by providing them a way to build a rocket with things that many of use can get a hand on. We used practical things, such as tape, scissors, a bottle of soda, cardboard, and either folders or paper for the cones. We provided them with a chance to build their own rocketship, many may not become astronauts, but they all were able to imagine themselves as one. We gave them a shot to learn about engineering, in a way that is accessible to them and was accessible to us.
The way we assessed the students was through dialogue. I only had two students, so it was going to be pretty easy to assess them. I asked why they would prefer one thing over another, to really get into their brains and make them chose stuff with a reason. I also had them draw out some sketches of cones and fins, to see where they were going with their ideas. If I started to hear of things that would not make the rocket successful; such as having 5 wings, I would redirect them with a question such as “Why, not 3? or 4? Why do you think 5 is the best way to go?” This would then make them rethink and redirect them.
I know I should have not interfered, but we wanted the rocket to go high!
During our lesson, I noticed a lot of parts that went really well. The students were the most engaged they have ever been for our last two lessons. In my group, the kids had the power to decide what would go on the rocket and how they would go about doing it. They were voicing their opinions and had a bit of disagreement when it came to choosing from all the options (cones and fins). Another great aspect of our lesson was that towards the end students that were not as engaged as they were in the beginning, got engaged towards the end when it came to blasting the rockets.
In my group, one of my students said that this was the best lesson thus far and that he had so much fun.
Initially, I thought that the area in which we were going to use the field, to blast off, was being occupied with the softball team. We still did the activity regardless, but we just had to keep on the eye, making sure no lose balls were going to hit any of the kids. The kids still were not discouraged, well a few of them, and did the activity regardless.
Throughout this lesson, the students had a clear goal to create a rocket that would potentially beat Rafael’s team. Students learned how to think like engineers and were able to have civil discourse when it came to choosing the best ideas for their rockets. I noticed how the students were using prior knowledge to back up their reasonings and explain why one design was going to be better than the other. They kept noticing smaller and smaller details, that they thought, would impact the height of the rocket launch; such as having a gap between the cone and the bottle. They thought that by having little gaps the air would go through, slowing down the rocket. They also thought that the more wings it had, the higher it would have gone as well. This is just such a scientific way of thinking because of they hypothesis each different option, and then act on what they thought would be best.
I honestly would not change much from this lesson. This lesson was by far the best I and Rafael created. Yet, in my part, I would have created a set of questions to help guide or help the students think about the rockets. I could have been a bit more enthusiastic when it came to teaching. Other than that, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The students just are in a place where as soon as classes ended, their day ended and did not want to put up another hour of teaching. Rafael and I did the most fun and engaging activity, but the students just were not going with it.
Personally, I grew so much throughout all my three lessons. I was not nervous at all when it came to teaching my last lesson, probably it was because I had to teach in my other class too, but I got comfortable. I learned that I cannot and will not get all of the students in my lesson and that I should focus on those that do. I am not saying that I am going to ignore the rest, but I am saying that those that want to learn will get so much out of our lessons, that I cannot waste time on those that just really don’t want to do much. I also get that we were afterschool, so the students were done with us, but this made me learn that doing things out of the ordinary was going to be the best way to engage the students. I and Rafael started off with equations and 3D shapes and ended up with launching rockets at the end! This was so much growth to just try to get the students to learn something while doing something fun.