DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
SPICEWOOD — “All right, here we go,” Henry Vanicek called out to the group of students behind him. “3, 2, 1…”
With a twist of the red handle attached to a series of PVC pipes, Vanicek and Spicewood Elementary School student Maddy Shaw released a burst of air that fired her plastic rocket down the kindergarten hallway.
Yeah, don’t tell Mom you’re shooting rockets down the hallway, but on Feb. 24 at Spicewood Elementary School, even Principal Leslie Baty had to smile.
“This is just so wonderful,” she said.
The rocket launch took place on STEM Day. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Several people involved in STEM careers or with STEM backgrounds set up centers for the students. As the different classes made their way through the various activities, the students got to try out STEM-related projects.
The day included stops at geology, computer gaming, software development, veterinary science and other centers.
“The kids get to read a lot about science, technology, engineering and math in class, but this gives them a chance to see it in action,” Baty said.
In the science stop with Vanicek and Spicewood Elementary School science teacher Sasha Chesnut, students fashioned an air-propelled rocket from a pre-cut plastic tube, some paper fins and paper nose cones. Chesnut explained to the students that these were their rockets and they could set up the fins any way they wanted.
As students set up next to Vanicek at the launching pad, he asked them how they thought their particular fin pattern might affect the rocket’s flight. After the flight, Vanicek or Chesnut asked students how modifying the fins could change the rocket’s flight.
“Think about how it flew and how moving the fins might change that,” Chesnut said.
In a classroom in the hall, another grade sat on the floor as teacher Melissa Fletcher showed a cockpit video of a 737 jet. The view gave the students a peek inside the flight crew cabin.
“Do you see all the computers and technology they use?” Fletcher asked. After the brief video, Fletcher went over some of the different things that pilots and flight engineers use to safely fly a plane including meteorology, geology and math — lots of math.
For their hands-on project, Fletcher turned to a more low-tech type of flight. The students picked between four styles of paper airplanes, made one each and then headed for the “runway” to give flight a go.
“When kids get the opportunity to put something into action that they read or study, it helps them really learn it,” Baty said. “And it just shows them how fun learning and STEM are.”
Back in the hallway, children’s laughter as well as some “oohs” and “ahhs” back up Baty’s assessment. Learning is fun, especially when it involves rockets.