Hi, I'm Chris. Several years ago, I was tricked into teaching a class on rocket science at Pima Air and Space Museum. At the time, I was annoyed. Until then I had instructed only adults and the thought of children frightened me.
Well... as of today they still frighten me, but the experience has changed my life. I now teach regularly at Pima Air and Space Museum,and I do summer camps at Pima Community College.
Teaching science to children is frustrating, exciting, and exhausting. I was not immediately a success, but I love teaching and have become better with each class.
This is what I learned: when you can explain science to a child so that they can understand it, then possibly YOU know what you are talking about.
My own approach goes like this: I describe a principle and using a prop, demonstrate it right in front of their eyes. I then have them make their own version of the prop and perform experiments with it. They get to keep the prop. In my experience, the lesson sticks.
I am something of an inventor and enjoy designing these lesson props. Not all are successful, but in a classroom setting if they fail, they at least fail quickly!
Some of my successes include a balloon powered spinning rocket for studying action and reaction and activities for stabilizing a rocket in flight. I find that chemical rockets at this scale fly too fast. For that reason, I use balloons for the first experiments to make the results more observable.
I have a small desktop rocket launcher that allows adjustment for the take-off angle. This leads to a discussion on the effects of gravity on objects in flight.
I teach an introduction to orbital mechanics by defining accelleration and having the students make a simple accelerometer. Observations of this tool is usually assigned as homework.
Action-reaction is revisited with the building of a balloon powered Mars Rover. While the class builds, I lead a discussion on robotic rovers that gives a general history regarding this area of exploration. Several simple experiments are performed and, well let's face it, the rovers are fun to play with!
The final experiment involves a small chemical rocket made from a plastic centrifuge tube. It is powered by seltzer tablets and has only modest energy. I use this rocket to review laws of motion and the rules of stability. (The Mighty Seltzer Rocket)
I use the simplest of materials for these experiments and creations. This is partly to keep them inexpensive, but more importantly, when a student looks at uncomplicated craft supplies they often say, "I could do that." The only proper response to that is "I know you can!" Student creations range from the practical to the fantastic.
All of the toys for sale on this site have been used in teaching situations and have been successful and enjoyed by students of all ages.
If you have any questions, are interested in placing an order for any of our products, or would like to schedule in-person and/or skyped classes with Chris Welborn, please email: