Kids explore space, launch ‘stomp rockets’

Isabella Nibblett (left) exclaims over friend Ella’s interpretation of an alien that could exist on an imaginary planet or moon with an extreme environment, during Creswell Library’s ”A Universe of Science” Summer Reading Program event Gini Davis/The Creswell Chronicle

A hands-on space science program on June 26 equipped youngsters to launch their own (paper) rockets on June 29, as Creswell Library hosted two Summer Reading Program events last week.
At various stations in the community center during ”A Universe of Science,” presented by Eugene Science Center education director, Karyn Knecht, kids visualized a planet or moon with an extreme environment and drew an alien lifeform they imagined could live there; observed the effects of colored filters – like those used in telescopes – on drawings done with pink or blue marker; and made ”pocket solar systems” to scale by placing stickers where instructed along a 1-meter strip of paper, with the sun sticker at one end and the Kuiper Belt sticker at the other.
Using various tools to learn about objects buried beneath the surface, kids examined balls of silvery blue and red ice representing, respectively, Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa. They sent various sizes of balls into ”orbit” on a gently sloping circle of black fabric; made paper ”sounding rockets” designed to carry science payloads – data collection and communication tools – into space.
Working in pairs, they played Space Guess Quest, asking yes/no questions to discern their partner’s mystery space object; and took turns as Mission Control, designing a program board and giving instructions, and as the Mars Rover, precisely following instructions – while blindfolded – to move, turn, stop and pick up ”rock samples.”
”The Science Center does a great job; I’m always impressed that every year they have something to do with our (SRP) theme,” said Youth Librarian Nick Caum. ”It’s a great way to introduce science concepts, and I’m always amazed at how much kids retain from an event like this.”
On Saturday, families convened in Holt Park for a Stomp Rockets activity. After constructing paper rockets using provided instructions, kids repeatedly launched them into ”space” by stomping on what Caum described as ”our shockingly effective homemade launchpads”: empty two-liter plastic soda bottles fitted onto a length of PVC pipe.
The rockets ”launched” from a portion of pipe set at a 90-degree angle from the rest. Stomping on the bottle forced air through the launcher, sending the rockets skyward.
The activity, Caum noted, subtly introduces kids to aeronautical concepts such as flight, pneumatics and energy transfer – besides being great outdoor fun.
”The park was a wonderful place to have the event; it was a nice change of pace from the library backyard, and the green grass was way more fun to run around on than the cement,” Caum said, estimating that many rockets traveled 200 to 300 feet into the air, while ”one parent got his close to 400 or 500 feet.”
The activity dovetailed neatly with this year’s ”Universe of Stories” SRP theme and Creswell’s Fourth of July Celebration theme: ”Out of This World.”
Originally designed as an experimental event loosely fitting a ”Building” theme, stomp rockets ”became an annual event because people liked it so much – and this year it happened to fit the theme again,” Caum said, adding that he likes to plan a mix of theme-related, experimental, and traditional or annual SRP events.
Stomp Rockets not only encompasses all three but offers a unique bonus: ”I love this event because people get to build something and then use it,” Caum said. ”A lot of library events (involve) either building or using, but not both. This one allows for both.”



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