I love when I do an activity that turns out better than I expect – and the kids love it! This activity was exactly that. It is so simple, but my kids were engaged and having fun the whole time. With the beautiful weather we have been getting recently, we are taking a lot of our activities outside. This straw rocket STEM challenge activity is easy to prepare and a great learning opportunity for kids.
STEM challenges are activities that have a specific goal or purpose, and incorporate science, technology, engineering and math skills into the activity. Children are challenged to experiment and problem solve to find the solution. There is more than one answer that children can come up with to solve for the goal. The focus is on the process.
There are a few ways that you can choose to do this STEM activity. I have included a free printable with different colored rocket ships that children can tape to their rocket. There is also a printable rocket that is black and white and can be designed and colored by kids. The printables are cute and easy for little ones to use and can also easily tie into any space theme.
However, you can also do the STEM challenge without the printables. Simply provide paper or a few cut outs and let children experiment and figure out a way to make their rocket.
You can decide which way to you want do the challenge. You can even provide both the printable and other materials and let the children explore and experiment with all of the supplies and see what they come up with.
Straw Rocket STEM Challenge – The Goal
For this straw rocket STEM challenge, children are challenged to find a way for their rocket to go the furthest by blowing into the straw.
That’s it. That’s the goal. Keep it simple and avoid giving children a lot of direction or suggestions for how to complete the challenge. You will be amazed at what they will be able to come up with.
It is important to remind children that with STEM challenges there is no goal of solving the challenge on the first try. The process is part of the activity. Typically if they are doing the STEM challenge right, they will need to make mistakes and then find a way to improve the mistake.
Straw Rocket STEM Challenge Materials
You don’t need many materials for this activity and the supplies you need are inexpensive. You will need:
- Straws (Thin and Thick)
- Rocket Printable (Optional)
There are two ways to prepare the materials.
Printable Rockets (Option #1)
If you want to provide children with the printable rockets to use for the experiment, simply print the free rocket page from Hands-On Teaching Ideas Free Resource Library. A link to subscribe and gain access can be found below.
You can provide the printable rockets for children to cut out, or color, and attach to their straw.
Child Created Rockets (Option #2)
You can also choose to give construction paper, straws and tape for children to cut out and make their own design for their rocket. They can cut out triangles to attach to the side to help it fly through the air.
Giving open ended materials allows children to experiment and easily alter their rocket.
STEM Challenge Rocket
Sometimes the larger straws are hard to find. They are typically called smoothie straws. Cut them into thirds. However, if you don’t have the larger straws, you can use paper rolled to the same thickness.
The larger straw needs to be taped on one end so that it is completely sealed (see the photo below). This straw creates the frame of the rocket.
Start by having children place their larger straw on the thinner straw and blow! The larger straw will take off and fly a bit.
If it doesn’t fly, the tape on the top is likely not sealing off the whole end of the straw. Add more tape to make sure it is fully sealed.
If you made your thick straw from paper, and it does not fly, make sure that you are using thin paper, such as computer paper versus heavy paper like cardstock. If the paper is too heavy it will weigh the rocket down and it will not fly.
Kids will have fun with this step of blowing into the straw. They will also be learning and experimenting as they play. They will test out how far they can make their straw rocket go by blowing into their straw fast and hard and moving the straw around to make it go high in the air by pointing it up or far in front of them by blowing into the straw horizontally.
If you want to add some math into your STEM challenge, measure how far the straws go before adding the rocket.
STEM Challenge Design
Once children have made the structure for their rocket, the next step is to design the rocket and add features to make it go further.
Children can start by adding triangles on the sides or the top. Once they add something, they then need to test it to see if it helped and improved.
Some students found that adding the wings made their rocket go further. However, others added too much tape and construction paper and their rocket did not travel far at all because of the weight. When this happened, they learned from it and removed the tape.
When I did this STEM activity at school, children loved making their rocket blast off and enjoyed continuously testing and changing it.
It can be a tricky balance to add the right number of extra features to the thick straw without adding too much weight that it changes its ability to fly.
You can supply markers to children to add some extra designs and marks to personalize it.
Although the rockets made of just paper and tape don’t look as pretty, I love that they are completely hand made. The kids were so proud of what they had created.
My favorite part of this STEM challenge is watching children make their rocket and then blowing on their straw and watching their rocket fly. They quickly ran to pick up their rocket and changed or added something and did it all over again.
The children didn’t get discouraged when their rocket didn’t fly far. They problem solved and challenged themselves to keep trying to make it better. That’s when the learning happens!
When I did this activity at school with kindergarten children, the kids were so excited to share their creations and they naturally started testing which rockets could go the farthest.
Once everyone was done their rocket, everyone lined up and tested out their rockets. We did a countdown and then everyone blew into their small straw to make their rocket blast off.
We tested to see whose rocket went the highest and whose went the furthest. It was a great outdoor activity and a perfect activity for children to work on creating, testing and fixing.
Free Rocket Printable for the STEM Challenge
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More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
Make learning fun at home or school with activities from Hands-On Teaching Ideas. From a collection of over 45 STEM building challenges and exciting science experiments to more rocket science activities and printable STEM activity cards, there is lots to keep kids busy and learning.