A Tradition of Excellence since 1657

Rocket Launch Culminates Woodhull Science Unit

As hundreds of rockets zoomed one-by-one into the sky, the eyes of Woodhull Intermediate School sixth graders lit up. The exercise served as the culminating activity for a very popular science unit and seemed to be just as exciting for parents and it was for the youngsters.

The launch is an entrenched tradition for sixth graders at the school and it continues to produce wonder and often outright amazement. Most of the rockets sailed high into the air and many flew a great distance. A number of them went off in unintended directions, including some that got hung-up in the large trees near the school, but even the owners of those rockets said they had a real blast with the experience.

Students spent almost three weeks constructing the rockets during their science classes. Teachers Allison VonVange, Paul Esposito and Mark Helstrom coordinated the impressive launch.

"The focus is on the students building their own individual rockets while developing an understanding of some key concepts such as Newton's laws of motion, how to calculate the speed of an object and some specific vocabulary relating to rocketry," Mr. Helstrom said.

The Huntington School District has always displayed pride in offering an extensive science program. Elementary grade level students have traditionally displayed an especially strong desire for experimentation and exploration. The annual rocket launch taps into those interests.

"The biggest aspect is launch day itself," Mr. Helstrom said. "The students are able to see their own individual rockets successfully launch, watch their parachutes deploy and hopefully retrieve their rockets before the wind takes them into the branches of the surrounding trees. The kids cheer and scream and display a strong sense of pride in what they built and to see the rocket perform as designed."

Each of the sixth graders was quite proud of their respective rocket, but they also took time to admire those belonging to their friends. The youngsters posed for individual and group photos and waited patiently for their turn on the launch pad.

The recently completed science unit included engineering, physics and an explanation of battery power. The students even personalized their rockets, by painting and decorating them prior to launch day.

The educational exercise brought the concepts of thrust, gravity and friction, along with the issues of force and motion, into sharper focus. Dozens of parents watched the launching, with some filming the event. Students cheered for one another and expressed awe at the sight of rockets racing upward.

The Woodhull youngsters erected outdoor launching pads and teachers provided them with assistance rigging the rockets to a battery power. The units ascended up toward the vivid blue sky before floating back to the ground thanks to tiny parachutes that were carefully tucked into the cavity of each rocket.

Although two weeks of rain delayed the festivities, "the rocket launch left both students and adults begging for more," Mr. Esposito said. Parent Rob Roday, a rocket expert/hobbyist and father of two children who recently "graduated" from Woodhull, assisted the teachers.

"The faces of the students said it all: smiles, mouths agape and laughter and pride all around," Mr. Esposito said. "Parents marveled at how organized and smoothly the launches went. The excitement lasted throughout each launch time-slot, with students marveling at their classmates' launches long after some of the boys and girls had launched their own rockets."

"The rocket launch was definitely exciting for me and all the other sixth graders," student Lindsay Martin said. "It was worth the wait and it was a perfect day to launch them. My rocket got stuck in a tree, but it was still very cool. I love Science and it is very fascinating to me!"

Parents and grandparents in the crowd seemed to enjoy the day as much at the kids. "It was well organized and everyone had a great time," Anne Connell said. "Many parents commented on how well run it was."

"The rocket launch was great," parent Kathy Lourenso said. "The whole process from learning about, making and launching seemed to be a fun unit. The kids seemed to really be enjoying the experience."

The names and faces of the students change each year, but the Woodhull rocket launch tradition isn't about to be relegated to the history books just yet. 

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