Blastoff! Rocket Ships

Children will use a variety of simple materials to build a rocket ship.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will learn that rocket ships can travel into space and are sometimes shaped like cylinders


What You'll Need

  • A model or a picture of a rocket ship
  • Paper towel tubes, gift wrap tubes, or oatmeal cartons
  • Felt or other soft material
  • Variety of scrap paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Paper or foam cups and plates
  • Coffee filters
  • Cellophane or tissue paper in different colors
  • Masking tape, glue, markers, crayons, scissors

What To Do

  1. Discuss rocket ships with the children (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Share the model rocket ship or the picture of a rocket ship. Have the children tell you about the shape of the rocket ship (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  3. Tell the children they will be making rocket ships. Display the materials that they will use to make their own rocket ships. Give them time to look through the materials and plan their project (see Did You Know?).
  4. You can ask some guiding questions, such as “What will you use to make the body of your rocket ship?” (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  5. Discuss the top of the rocket ship and ask the children what they will use to make the pointy tops of their rocket ships.
  6. Remind the children of the shape of the fins on the end of the rocket ship and ask what they can use to make the fins.
  7. Have the children begin assembling their own rocket ships.
  8. Assist the children with attaching their fins to their rocket ships.
  9. When the rocket ships are completed, have a group countdown and lift-off!

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me what you know about rocket ships. What do they look like?
  • Where do rocket ships travel to and what do they do?
  • Describe the shapes you see in the rocket ship (body – cylinder, top – cone, fins - rhombus).
  • What keeps a rocket ship going in the right direction? (fins)
  • What helps keep the rocket ship from tipping over? (fins)
  • Explain how a rocket ship’s shape helps it to fly.
  • Let’s compare a rocket ship and an airplane. How are they alike? How are they different?
  • How big do you think a real rocket ship is?
  • How far do you think a rocket ship can travel?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Read the digital storybook Zip, Zoom, Elmo's on the Moon! together.  In this story, Cookie Monster tells Elmo that he thinks the moon is a giant cookie.  Elmo then dreams he is taking a trip in a rocket ship to the moon to see if it really is a cookie!  Go to Reading Adventures, a series of five Sesame Street® digital storybooks focused on vocabulary development, and choose Zip, Zoom, Elmo's on the Moon!.
  • Use large cardboard boxes, paper, and tape to build a rocket ship for the dramatic play area. Create a command center with buttons, switches, screens, microphones, and headsets.
  • Extend this lesson into a lesson about the sky; where do rocket ships travel?
  • Launch your rocket ships using a straw, string, and balloons. As the children build their rocket ships, make sure that they leave the bottom ends of their tubes or containers open. Tie one end of a length of string to a door knob, thread a straw on the string, and tie the other end to another support about ten feet away. When the rocket ships are complete, give each child a turn to tape their rocket ship to the straw at one end of the string. Place a long balloon inside the rocket ship. Blow up the balloon. Hold the end of the balloon closed; do not tie it. Release the balloon to launch the rocket ship.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to build a rocket ship that included the basic parts and identify the shape of a rocket ship?
  • Could children describe the shapes in the rocket ship?
  • Could children understand how a rocket ship flies?
  • Could children explain where a rocket ship goes?


Did You Know?

A rocket ship is a form of transportation. It can take a person into space. A rocket ship is powered by a rocket engine that uses fuel to create a powerful thrust. The thrust forces the rocket ship upward at a very fast speed. Other forms of transportation also are powered by rockets, such as some airplanes, missiles, and even some cars. Rocket ships are often cylinder shaped with pointy nose cones. The cylinder shape is smooth and even. This helps minimize air resistance, making the rocket ship more aerodynamic, which results in the need to carry much less fuel.

Rockets can have many shapes. Most satellites and the lunar module are not shaped like cylinders. If a rocket can produce enough thrust and can be stabilized, it does not have to have a cylinder shape. Some rocket ships have tails with fins that help to stabilize the rocket and to keep it going in the right direction, but not all rockets have fins. Some have non-movable fins, which add stability to the rocket. Others have moveable fins, which allow for a certain amount of control. The shape and design of a rocket is determined by its purpose.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • rocket ship — a flying vehicle often shaped like a cylinder.
  • engine — a machine that uses fuel for energy to do work.
  • thrust — to push or drive with force.
  • launch — to put in motion with force.
  • outer space — the universe or the area around Earth that includes the planets, the Sun, and the stars.
  • lift-off — the moment of launching a rocket, or the motion itself.

Lesson Tips

  • Gift wrap tubes are a great material to use because they are thicker than paper towel rolls. You could also layer a few pieces of construction paper together and then roll them into a tube shape for each child.
  • For more information about rocket propulsion, visit the following website:


  • Roaring Rockets by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
  • Curious George and the Rocket by H. A. Rey
  • Zoom, Rocket, Zoom! by Margaret Mayo
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS