Saturday, March 12, 2011

3, 2, 1--Blast Off! (or fun with duct tape)

We are studying outer space this week in preschool.  There are a variety of good science activities to go along with space, but I was short on time and readily available supplies so this was pulled together with materials we had on hand.  I'm calling it a success!  The kids enjoyed it as well and were able to explore and alter the materials at their own whim.

Materials needed:  plastic spoons, duct tape (or other tape), cotton balls (or pom poms).

We started out by duct taping a few spoons along the edge of the table, with the bowl of the spoon facing out from the table at a 90 degree angle.  (I took pictures, but when I attempt to load a picture here, I get a box with an X...)  I showed the kids how to place a cotton ball into the bowl of the spoon, pull down, and count down from 10, before letting their 'rocket' launch into the sky.

It was fun to hear all the countdowns and enthusiasm as rockets were launched.  I was glad we went with cotton rather than something harder, like a penny, because many rockets were launched into faces.  But a cotton ball to the face, is no deterrent to fun!

The following day I added pencils to the table and showed children my idea to place the pencil at the edge of the table and taping the spoon over the top.  My thought was that this would propel the rockets forward, rather than straight up, and we could aim for a target at the center of the table.  This did happen with a few children eventually.  However the best part was watching the children try to duplicate my thoughts, but not quite getting there.  Spoons were positioned in so many ways, as were pencils.  Knowing the children would learn more if they walked themselves through the process, I tried to offer only minimal assistance and only when frustration was mounting to the extent that the child would leave the experiment.  Soon I had a couple of peer experts that could offer advice to their friends and I could sit back, tear strips of duct tape, and enjoy the show.  One child's a
dvice was always 'You need more duct tape' as he enthusiastically added another strip of tape to his contraption.  He ended up with tape a half inch thick at the base of his catapult.  Another child showed his peers how to hold the spoon at the base as you launch the rocket into space (this step was not always necessary to launch, but in his eyes it was, and it didn't hurt the process).

When I noticed some successful spoon/pencil/duct tape catapults evolving, I retrieved some lids and bowls to become targets that the children could adjust so that they may explore how far they could launch their rocket.  These targets did not escape the duct tape either.  I let a couple parents know that duct tape might be a great gift for their little tykes, as the joy of taping something down made their little faces just glow and their eyes sparkle.  Sometimes it's the simple things....

Shared at No Time for Flashcards' Sunday Link and Learn


  1. Shooting off rockets sounds like a blast!

  2. Sounds like a super fun activity. We'll have to try it!