My kids love science programs. If they have to be outside due to messiness or other reasons, all the better. We have a tiny side yard but it’s generally enough. There’s also been a push at my library to offer Saturday programs, so one of the two I did this summer was science themed. I paired two projects they wanted to try, even though they had little in common: Squishy Circuits and Rockets.
I wanted a rocket that would not need any sort of fire but also not be super complicated to build and design. I settled on these from Instructables.com. The rockets themselves were made simply out of paper and tape and the stomping mechanism seemed simple and I could basically do it with parts we had lying around the library. While we were still inside, I walked them through the steps of making the rockets using the template in the link. Many of them added their own flare and, for some of my middle schoolers, they were actually a little hard to do. Still, everyone completed a cool looking and unique rocket.
Then, also before we went outside, we made conducting (or regular) and insulating play doh for the Squishy Circuits. I split the kids in half and had each group make one because they make more than enough in each batch for every kid to try one. We tested our little lights, which we already owned from an early elementary program, and made sure our batteries were current.
We moved out onto our front plaza and tested our squishy circuits first. Although it kept the mess contained and it didn’t matter if some play dough stuck to the brick work, it might have worked better inside. Our lights were so little that it was hard to see when they lit! But light they did and the kids were excited to have made a full working circuit out of something they played with as toddlers. We talked about what made one of them insulating and the other conducting.
We saved the best for last! It was time to launch our rockets. We didn’t launch them straight up because a) it was windy and we’re not far from a road and b) the kids had fun ‘shooting’ them away from the others (although we had to have a few talks about not getting in front of the shooting paper rockets). The stomp rocket system worked surprisingly well, but I would encourage getting more of the big soda bottles. Ours basically lasted for one good stomp each and then would not easily reinflate for a second. And also, more duct tape to retape bottles on when you have to replace them. The teens had fun competing to see who could stomp the hardest and if that affected how far the rocket would fly. On top of that, we had a discussion about aerodynamics and how that also might affect how the rockets flew.
In all, the kids had a blast. If I were to do it over, I’d get more big bottles and I would figure out more to do with the squishy circuits. Although they had fun making the play doh and getting incredibly messy, it was a bit of a letdown to have a teeny tiny light half light for them.