Monday, October 3, 2016

Fifth Grade Water Bottle Rockets: Authentic and Real World Learning, the 4Cs, & Use of Technology

Each year fifth grade students at Groveland Elementary School work collaboratively in small groups to design, build, and launch water bottle rockets during the first week of school in September.  They build the rockets out of two 2-liter bottles, duct tape, plastic, foam, and cardboard. The teachers use an air compressor with 50 pounds of pressure to launch the rockets at a 45 degree angle from an homemade launch pad. As you can see in the video, the rockets, for their initial launch, go about 50 feet in the air and about 100 or so feet of distance.

After the launch, the students revise their designs based upon what they learned from the success or failure of their launch as well as that of their classmates. They modify their rocket and relaunch it once again to see if their changes improved the distance and height of their rocket. They repeat two more times before parents are invited for a final launch. Younger students at the school often come outside to watch the fifth graders launch their rockets, so this is a project that students have been anticipating for years.

When I was there a few weeks ago, it was only the fourth day of school and students had just received and set up their iPad as part of our one to one iPad program for all students in grades 5 -12. Less than an hour later, all the students were outside to launch their rockets, using their iPads to film the launch. Some students were using the slow motion mode to record each launch. All students were able to review their videos and those of their classmates later for analysis. Students use a spreadsheet to track the data we collected at each launch: distance traveled, amount of water the bottle, amount of water in the nose cone, and pressure that was provided for launch.

The Minnetonka Teaching & Learning Framework
Throughout this unit students learn the science behind their rocket designs, launches, flights, air pressure, physics, gravity, and more. It is a great ongoing project for students to be able to design, research, revise and innovate. It fits many dimensions of Minnetonka’s Teaching and Learning Framework: authentic and real world learning, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and use of technology.

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