Rotating Rocket Ship Update

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A group of children were researching projects on the Little Bits Website and came across something that piqued their interest. The children watched a video of the project rotating and were inspired to recreate it. However, before we even got started, we had two big problems to overcome:

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The boys didn’t have either of these special materials, so when they realized this, they were challenged to find another way to make the Rocket Ship Project work. They decided to scope out the materials they had at hand and that they were familiar with. Immediately, the students utilized the glue gun and decided to make their own rockets out of cardstock paper. After discussing the difference between a 2-dimensional, flat rocket on a piece of paper and a 3-dimensional rocket, they were inspired to overcome another obstacle and create 3-D rockets.

(For more descriptions on the beginning of this project, click here)

B, P, H, and M created the following rock ships with S, L, and M helping often. Although the children were in groups, children from other projects were open to add ideas and help. The image below shows their first attempt. The initial plan was to have ten rocket ships. The students chose to have the cardboard piece and Styrofoam hold the wire pieces in place. They cut the wire to be 8 ½ inches, like the website suggested.

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When they tested this model, it wasn’t balanced proportionally. This provided an amazing opportunity to problem solve, collaborate, and innovate. At first, the core group for this project tried to solve the problem by themselves. After a few trial-and-error attempts, we presented the problem to the class for the morning “creative writing” assignment. The model was placed on the table for all of the children to observe. Below are a few ideas the class brainstormed on how they could get the project to spin steadily:

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.03.05 AMOne child’s hypothesis states that they could take some of the rockets off and only use three

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.03.09 AM“I think they need to put four rockets and if that does not work, then add one or add two and then fly on with your project.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.03.14 AM“…Maybe we have to put three ships so that it will work.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.03.28 AM“Break a ballet stand, take or glue the spinner to the rocket, turn it on and see if it works.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.03.23 AM“It needs to be balanced. 5 needs to be on one side and 5 need to be on the other.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.03.00 AM“We need to have seven rockets”

The following diagram communicates one child’s thoughts on how electricity flows from the battery to the dc motor. The dc motor is what spins and allows the rockets to rotate. Technically, electricity is the flow of electrons through a conductive path, like a wire. This path is called a circuit. In his words, he refers to the circuit as “lighting,” which actually is a form of electricity running through the wire. The arrows on the diagram show that the electricity (or lightening in his words) flows to the dc motor. This explanation proves that this child was able to make the connection without a formal lesson on electricity. The Reggio Emilia philosophy believes children are capable of making these connections if given the proper opportunities.

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Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.02.33 AMConnecting the battery to electricity

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.02.38 AM“The rockets have a battery that is connected to the Little Bits that makes it go.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.02.42 AM“The rockets need a battery or they won’t go. We have two rockets on each side to make it balanced.”

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To view a video of the children’s conversation of electricity, click here!

The end result is a rotating rocket ship, an understanding of mathematics and science concepts, and a hefty load of creativity, teamwork, and problem solving solutions. A rotating rocket ship was used to discover what electricity is and it provided language development through learning new vocabulary and reading books all about electricity and rockets. The children learned fine motor skills through painting, drawing, and cutting out the rocket ships. Counting the rocket ships developed math skills and the children working together to solve problems created magical moments of social development, while they simultaneously practiced cognition and furthered the understanding of their world around them. This rocket ship project highlights a main point in the Reggio curriculum, where “long-term projects are common, and cooperative learning is encouraged” –Linda Jacobson

Some parents may think that creating a rotating rocket ship is cute, but question if their children will they be able to succeed in junior high and high school science classes. The answer is yes. Instead of handing children a chart and picture-diagram of electrons and circuits, the children figured it out on their own. Through a series of hypotheses and experiments, the children developed their own understanding of electricity and definitions for terms. Moreover, they connected what electricity is used for, the different components to it, and created their own terms to explain it. The maturity of the children’s development and knowledge is constantly astounding us!


To view a video of the final product, click here!

To read about our other Little Bits projects:

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