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What force is pushing the model rocket up?

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What force is pushing the model rocket up?

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 particle motion to answer the following driving question: What force is pushing the model rocket up? Students use diagrams and videos of a transparent engine to add ideas to their Initial Models explaining how the rocket launches. Students determine that next they need to investigate how the change in temperature affects the substance emitted from the model rocket and how the substance makes the rocket move. Students use a simulation to investigate the effect of a change in temperature on gas particles and how gas particles can exert a force. Students look for patterns in three examples of forces and motion and read a short article on Newton’s Third Law. Finally, students revise the class model and develop an explanation of how the rocket is able to launch off the ground and how the nose cone ejects.

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Student Materials

Per Student

Per Small Group (2 to 4 students)

  • Tablet or laptop that can run the PhET simulation

Teacher Materials

  • None

Optional Teacher Resources

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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