3-2-1 Blast-Off: Understanding Reaction Rate To Better Design a Toy Rocket!

3-2-1 Blast-Off: Understanding Reaction Rate To Better Design a Toy Rocket!


Emily Berman
Science Teacher
Blackstone Academy Charter School
Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Lesson Feedback


This lesson was developed to align with the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), specifically through the engagement of students by using science and engineering practices (SEPs) and applying the crosscutting concepts (CCCs) to understand the disciplinary core ideas (DCIs). Understanding reaction rate is a foundational chemistry concept and is used as the anchor phenomenon for this lesson. Reaction rate is outlined in NGSS Performance Expectation, HS-PS1-5

The objective of this lesson is for students to be able to construct a definition of reaction rate and argue from evidence why they have designed the “optimal” rocket, through the CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning) writing method. In the lesson, students will work to understand reaction rate through the analysis of a toy’s design, the Alka Seltzer rocket. They will work through the NGSS engineering practices to determine the optimal rocket based on their understanding of changing concentration, temperature, and reaction rate. Students will model the reaction in their rocket on a macroscopic and microscopic level, and better understand what conditions make the best rocket.

Teachers are given the option of having students build and test their own Alka Seltzer rockets.  However, this is not absolutely necessary for the lesson and could not be completed within the time frame of a 50-minute class. Yet such an an activity after the lesson would make the learning more meaningful and engaging for students! Instructions for building Alka Seltzer rockets can be found below in the "Additional Online Resources" section.

Prerequisites include an understanding of the CER writing method, and a familiarity with modeling. This lesson will take one 50-minute class period to complete. Supplies needed are: the student worksheet. Optional supplies: Film canisters, Alka Seltzer and Water (for students to create their own alka seltzer rocket). During classroom breaks, there will be modeling activities, small group and whole group discussions, and writing activities.

Instructor Biography

Emily has been a teacher since 2014, teaching high school biology, chemistry, and engineering for the past 3 years, and before that, a year teaching middle school chemistry and physics. She is currently a teacher at Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In addition to her classroom practice, Emily is a 2015 Knowles Teacher Initiative Teaching Fellow and a 2017 TeachPlus RI Fellow.

Additional Online Resources

PhET Interactive Simulation
This is a PhET interactive simulation that allows students to explore what makes a reaction happen by colliding atoms and molecules. Students can also design experiments with different reactions, concentrations, and temperatures. Students will explore whether reactions are reversible and what affects the rate of a reaction?

Khan Academy: Chemical Reactions Introduction
This is a Khan Academy video lesson introducing Chemical Reactions.

Engineering Resources - Knowles Teacher Initiative
This site, provided by Knowles Engineering, provides teacher resources designed to bring engineering into math and science education.

Imagination Station
This site, sponsored by Imagination Station, provides detailed instructions on how to build Alka Seltzer rockets.

ChemEd XChange
This site, hosted by ChemEd XChange, provides a very comprehensive overview for Chemistry teachers on how to implement the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) Framework in their classrooms.