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How can we plan a safe model rocket launch and landing?

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How can we plan a safe model rocket launch and landing?

Sensemaking Checklist

What is Sensemaking?

Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates that students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.

Lesson Snapshot

Middle school students, as scientists, use science ideas about forces and motion, particle motion, and chemical reactions to answer the following driving question: How can we plan a safe model rocket launch and landing? Students use models developed in previous lessons to develop a checklist that will set up rockets for successful recovery system deployment. Students conduct an initial model rocket launch and collect data about the time it takes for the model rocket to descend.

Click the Download PDF button above for the complete Lesson Plan.


Student Materials

Per Student

Per Small Group (2 to 4 students)

  • Rocket and engine
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Carpenter’s glue
  • Phone or other device to record launch

Teacher Materials

Optional Teacher Resources

Contact Estes Education if you have any questions that aren’t addressed in the Teacher Materials. (

Note: Eye protection must be worn when groups launch model rockets and is recommended for spectators.

Model Rocket Safety Storyline Unit

This lesson is one of seven lessons in the Model Rocket Safety Storyline Unit. Storylines start with an anchoring phenomenon that raises questions or introduces a problem. Each step in a storyline unit is then driven by students’ questions that arise from the phenomenon.

In this case, the anchoring phenomena are successful and unsuccessful model rocket flights. The first day of the unit allows students to consider what they do and don't know about model rockets and what they want to find out. This gives them a reason to investigate the science ideas that explain model rocket launches, flight, and landings. In doing so, they will make sense of Disciplinary Core Ideas related to physics, chemistry, and engineering.

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