published: Friday, December 14, 2012
Fifth graders learn the basics
roxanne brown | Staff Writer
Students at Lost Lake Elementary had a 'blast' Friday during a hands-on science lesson that ended two weeks of instruction about aerodynamics, projectile motion, forces of flight, velocity and acceleration.
That's when 200 fifth-graders -- in groups of five at a time -- launched homemade rockets they built and decorated for the occasion.
Every color rocket imaginable -- some covered in hearts and stickers and another that resembled a lobster-- was given a once over before being brought to the launching pad.
"I've been waiting my whole elementary years to do this. I've watched since third grade and that was fun, but now I get to actually launch my rocket and I am so excited," said 10-year-old Julia Zhu.
Before each launch, the rocketeers were joined by younger students, who joined in screaming "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" as the rockets were launched by mechanisms also designed by the students.
Once each rocket reached its apex, it came parachuting back to the playground -- or sometimes into a patch of trees adjoining the school.
"Every fifth-grader built their own rocket, from putting together the engine bass, the rocket cylinder and nose cone to folding the parachute, said Sara Klenk, a fifth-grade teacher at Lost Lake. "It's a very tricky task because if they fold it too tightly, it won't deploy and if it's too loose, it won't work properly. That's why hands-on is so great."
Joe Saunders, Lost Lake's Science Enrichment teacher, said he feels the launches went well after all rockets managed to deploy.
Saunders said the entire project was part of the school's focus on "STEM," a nationally recognized program that focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, hence the name.
Lost Lake is one of only two STEM schools in Lake County. Umatilla Elementary School in east Lake is the other.
"The whole point of the initiative is to get students excited about math and science, to get them learning new things and interested about areas within those industries. There's a big push for it, to help students excel, as an entire country," Saunders said. "If we can get them (students) to have it in their heads, it's gonna make more of an impact later in their lives."
"The rockets fit right into the initiative because it's fun and at the same time, teaching students about the science, engineering and math involved in making and launching them."
During the past two weeks, the students have also watched videos on rocket launching and learned about the history of rockets and space exploration.
Zachary Strurgill, 10, said that before building his rocket, he did not realize the parachute connected to the cone.
Arianna Christina Gonzalez, 10, who could hardly contain herself while waiting for her turn to launch her rocket, said she learned that "you need a stabilized engine and isolation" for the rocket to work properly.
Right before her rocket launch, Gonzalez said the work involved in all they had to do was worth the moment of "blast off."
"I love counting down and I love the sound the rockets make when they go off," Gonzalez said as she tried to recreate it loudly with her own voice. "I also like watching them come down on the parachute and even if mine is destroyed, it'll be awesome."
Saunders said at the end of the day, the plan was to recover as many rockets possible for the students.
The rocket project will be followed by a fifth grade field trip to the Kennedy Space Center next week, which will include other hands-on experiments and lessons the students will be treated to while there.