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Lesson Title: Thrust, Air Pressure Rockets and Newton's Third Law
May 11, 2012

Unit: Physical Science - Forces and Motion

Grade Levels: 4-6

Connection To Curriculum: Science and Mathematics

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 4 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: thrust, rocket design, Newton's third law


4 empty aluminum soft drink cans per team (pull tabs in intact)
Carpenter's nails of different sizes (6, 12, 16D)
String (about 50cm)
Water tub (large plastic storage tub, small kiddie pool, sink, etc.)
Rulers, Meter stick
Sticker or bright permanent marker
Sewing pin
4" to 5" round balloons
Flexible soda straw
Plastic tape
2 long party balloons (not round balloons)
Nylon monofilament fishing line (any weight)
2 Plastic straws (nonbendable)
Styrofoam cup
Masking tape
Styrofoam food trays
Small plastic stirrer (round)

This lesson connects a series of activities to examine thrust and Newton's Third Law applied to rockets and cars propelled by air pressure.

Students will:
• Investigate Newton's Third Law of Motion using thrust produced by falling water, balloon powered rockets and racing cars.
• Explore the action-reaction principle by constructing a balloon-powered pinwheel.
• Demonstrate how several stages of a rocket can operate in steps to propel a rocket.

First page of Thrust, Air Pressure Rockets and Newton's 3rd Law

Lesson Guide
Thrust and Acceleration Lesson
[80KB PDF file]



Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Pop Can Hero Engine
    Small student teams will construct water-propelled engines out of soft drink cans and investigate ways to in crease the action-reaction thrust produced.
    Keywords: propulsion, engine, thrust

  2. Rocket Pinwheel
    Student teams construct a balloon-powered pinwheel to explore Newton's Third Law, the action-reaction principle.
    Keywords: Newton's third law

  3. Balloon Staging
    Two inflated balloons are joined in a way that simulates a multistage rocket launch as they slide along a fishing line on the thrust produced by escaping air.
    Keywords: rocket design, staging, thrust

  4. Rocket Races
    Student teams construct racing cars from styrofoam food trays and power them with the thrust of an inflated balloon.
    Keywords: thrust, movement, design

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.

Physical Science
• Position and motion of objects.
• Motions and forces.
• Properties of objects and materials.

Science and Technology
• Abilities of technological design.
• Understanding about science and technology.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Numbers and Operations
• Understand the place value system.
• Generalize place value understanding for multidigit whole numbers.

Measurement and data
• Convert like measurement units within given measurement system.
• Represent and interpret data.


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