Monday, May 20, 2013

"Blast Off"! Rocket Learning Center

Kids love to "explore" outer space!  The “Blast Off” Learning Center originally started as a recycling project in my first grade classroom, and the kids loved this giant 8' rocket! Always willing to help, the cooks at our school saved 120 gallon-size cans, smoothly removed the tops of the cans, and washed and dried them thoroughly. It also greatly helped to have handy parent volunteers to assemble this project! This rocket is easily disassembled for portability. Special thanks to all!! 

120 gallon-size cans
4 sheets of 1/4" plywood
wood screws
2 long quarter-inch threaded metal rods with 4 nuts
large piece of corrugated cardboard (nose cone)
Upholstery needle and strong cord (navy cord works well)
papier mache paste
newspaper or newsprint
chenille stems
silver spray paint
carpet scraps and glue

Rocket Base
  1. First I cut a pattern for a 4 foot diameter circle.  
  2. One quarter-inch plywood was cut into 4-foot circles.  For our rocket, we needed 1 circle for the bottom, 2 "O" shaped discs, and 4 "C" shaped discs. I used the width of the cans to determine the width of each disc.  Edges were sanded as needed.  
  3. 2 holes were drilled into the base, the top 2 pieces, and each plywood “C-shaped” disc on opposite sides. 
  4. Cans were placed on the edge of the base with solid side down and screwed into place. Cans were also screwed into the "O" shaped discs and the "C" shaped discs. All cans were attached to the discs before assembly. 
  5. Assembly:  Two (2) quarter-inch threaded metal rods were fitted with a nut and inserted into the base with the nut under the base and cans on top (see photo).  Add the following discs with cans on top and the metal rods passing through. :   “O” disc, 4 "C" discs; "O" Disc (see photo below).
  6. Nuts were then added to the metal rods, and the rods were cut above the nuts.
Completed Rocket Ready to "Blast Off"!!

Nose Cone
  1. A large piece of cardboard (from a table carton) was cut into a half-circle.  The edges were gradually pulled together until they formed a cone shape.  The circumference of the cone was adjusted until it was slightly greater than 4 foot in diameter to fit the top row of cans. 
  2. The cardboard was secured with bulldog clips, and I carefully punched holes in the cardboard with the sharp end of a compass.  A large upholstery needle and cord were then used to sew the sides together.  Holes were drilled into cans on the top wood disc and holes punched in the cardboard cone at 4 places.  Chenille stems were used to attach the cone to the top “O” disc of the rocket base.   
  3. A papier mache paste was prepared from flour and water, and plastic was placed around the rocket to protect the floor.  Students helped tear pieces of newspaper, dip them into paste, and attach to the outer side of the rocket nosecone.  A second coat of papier mache was added.  
  4. When completely dry, the nosecone was carried outside and painted with silver spray paint. 
  5. A “space shield” curtain was painted by the class with space-shaped sponges and added to the doorway with a long spring.  The "space shield" was rolled up and tied when not in use.

Additional Notes:  
  • The Rocket Floor was covered with carpet pieces cut and randomly glued to the base.  Carpet was also added to the exposed wood in the entry (see above photo).
  • The Mission Control Center was created out of boxes and designs added by students.  Headphones add to the fun!  Books about outer space were placed in containers and were very popular with the students!
  • Children also made astronaut air-packs out of cereal boxes, cups, and construction paper. 
  • Astronaut and Robot puppets added to the learning and enjoyment!
Variations of the Rocket:  The rocket can be decorated for various events and holidays. Here are some of our variations: 

"Log Cabin" Rocket

"Igloo" Rocket with Clear Lights  

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