Skyrockets in flight

Students at the Lab Schools have a little fun in the name of science.

Liftoff! A second grader launches a model rocket on the Midway.

Sam Larson, U-High’03, holds up his hand to grab the children’s attention. "Launching in five!" he intones. The assembled Lab Schools students don’t need any more prompting. They count down with him: "Four! Three! Two! One!" The final word is an unintelligible shout, somewhere between blastoff and liftoff, but all anyone cares to hear is the whoosh of a model rocket racing its way down the Midway Plaisance.

For the past four years, second graders taught by Donna McFarlane (with her assistant, Larson) have built model rockets as a concrete way to pull together a number of different math and science concepts they learn in the classroom. The spring day her students finally get to launch their creations skyward—"Rocket Day"—draws more spectators every year. Children from the Nursery School and kindergarten, and a smattering of students from other grade levels, took up positions on the grassy berm of the Midway to watch the proceedings. The nursery schoolers occasionally started a countdown unbidden, as if the chant would magically produce a rocket launch.

Larson and his friend Ken Hecht, U-High’04, were responsible for running the launch pad; the second graders are kept back a safe distance by their U-High "buddies," a group of high-school volunteers. Larson and Hecht prepped each rocket, but the kids pressed the ignition button themselves. After each rocket’s motor burned out, it coasted for a few seconds before deploying a parachute and descending gently to Earth.

"It’s perfect weather" for rocketry, noted McFarlane, as she waited downrange for the rockets to land. After each launch, a second grader sprinted to retrieve their model with his or her buddy only footsteps behind. The high schoolers are having as much fun as the second graders, McFarlane observed with a smile. Not that they’d ever admit it.





Benjamin Recchie, AB'03

Kids and adults alike enjoy Rocket Day festivities. Photography by Benjamin Recchie

June 9, 2010