- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
- Building Forward
Rocket launches intrigue and inspire Eastridge Community Elementary students
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”
That was the cry from groups of fourth- and fifth-grade students gathered on the playground at Eastridge Community Elementary on Sept. 2. When the countdown hit one, a student in each group stomped on a liter soda bottle attached to a rocket launcher made of plastic pipe. Then four paper rockets popped off the launch pads and into the air as the students cheered or groaned, depending on how high their rocket sailed.
“We are stepping on a soda bottle as hard as we can and then the air and the pressure launches the rocket up,” said fifth grader Athaylie Kramer.
Fellow fifth grader Alex Hernandez explained that the rocket launch was a case of action and reaction.
“The action was that we were stepping on the soda bottle and the reaction was that the paper rocket flew up, not too high, but at least it flew up,” Hernandez said.
The experiment was directly related to real world events, namely the anticipated launch of NASA’s Artemis I rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“We’ve been talking a lot about the Artemis launch and how important it is,” said Mary Anderson, the STEAM teacher at Eastridge. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. “It’s something that they’ll see at home, it’s something that we learn about in school, and this is just another way to drive that point home, in terms of having an activity that they’ll never forget.”
Before the Eastridge rockets began launching, Anderson and her students talked about Artemis’ anticipated unmanned journey around the moon and back. They discussed the fact that both water and hydrogen exist on the moon in the form of ice, and why that’s important.
“Hydrogen is rocket fuel,” Hernandez explained. “So, the moon would be a perfect place for a rocket to stop. It’s kind of like if we drove to California… We wouldn’t drive straight there. It’s not possible. You have to stop for gas and stuff.”
Artemis was originally scheduled to launch on Aug. 29, but the launch was scrubbed because of an issue with one of the rocket’s four engines. Anderson said the launch delay provides an important lesson for her students, who experienced their own launch troubles when some of the paper rockets failed to leave the launch pads.
“I’m always very pleased when students experience failure,” she said. “It’s a very important part of the engineering design process which is what we start teaching here at Eastridge as early as the age of five.”
Anderson said that after the launch, she and her students will investigate why some of the rockets soared high into the air, while others didn’t. It’s all part of their growth mindset, which is one of the Core Values of Cherry Creek Schools.
In the meantime, many will be watching the next Artemis launch attempt, which is scheduled for Sept. 3. Hernandez wonders if it will give him a glimpse of his future.
“Ms. Anderson gives us positive hopes, so I just really want to be an astronaut and learn more about space,” he said.