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Film Canister Rockets

Lesson Objective: As a result of this lesson plan students will be able to name

the three phases of matter with 100% accuracy. Students will be able to demonstrate how the gas phase is a powerful force even though it often cannot be seen. They will be able to understand how atoms behave in the three phases of matter and explain it with at least 90% accuracy.

Materials: Empty film canisters, Alka Seltzer tablets, water, paper, tape,



Math, Science and Technology Standards One, Four and Five

Anticipatory Set: I will begin by asking students if they know what matter is.

I will say, "matter is anything that takes up space. So what are some examples of matter? What about air, does air take up space? Well, there are three kinds of matter, liquid, gas and solid. Who can give me an example of each?" I will then write the word "atom" on the board. "Does anyone know what this means?" I will tell them, "An atom is something very tiny. Everything that is matter is made up of atoms. Atoms are like building blocks. You are really just made of billions and billions of little atoms put together." We'll come up with a definition together to put on the board. I will then say, "Do you think atoms are put together the same way in gases and liquids and solids?" After the students have given me their answers I will draw three boxes on the board with dots in the middles to represent the different atom structure. I will explain how gas atoms need much more room than solid atoms. I will ask the students which phase, gas, liquid or solid they think is the strongest.

Procedure: I will tell the students that we are going to witness first

hand how gas atoms need more space than solid atoms and that we are

going to figure out if one phase is stronger than the other. We will be

doing this by making our very own rockets. I will pass out the materials.

Each student will use paper, tape and markers to decorate their film canisters to look like rockets. We will then fill the canisters 1/4 of the way with water and go outside. Once the class is outside we will break up into small groups. This will help to minimize the chaos! We will have a little unofficial competition to see whose rocket can go the highest. When it is each group's turn the students will step up to where I am standing and QUICKLY place 1/2 of an Alka-seltzer tab in their canister and snap the lid on. They will set it on the ground and back away. The class will watch as their rockets launch.

Check for Understanding: At the end of the first group I will ask the class if

anyone can explain to me what is happening with the atoms to make the canisters launch. I will explain, "The SOLID Alka-Seltzer, and the LIQUID water fit inside the canister because their atoms are not spread apart very far. But once the Alka-Seltzer and the water combine to begin to make a gas, there is no more room. The gas molecules are far apart and need lots of space. They grow and grow until there is no more room so they explode out of the canister and make our rocket go." The rest of the class will then do their rockets. We will keep a close eye on the gas building up in the canister and predict when it is going to explode.

Closure: Once the class is back in the classroom I will pass out the attached

worksheet for homework.

Name: ___________________________

Date: _____________________________

1) Draw and label what the atoms in the three phases of matter look like.

2) Why did our rockets launch?

3) Name one thing that you learned from this lesson that you did not know before. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


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Casey E. Hicks
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Last Updated: February 5, 2008
© 2008 Casey E. Hicks