If you haven’t done film canister rockets yet, boy are you missing out! I’ll give you a quick run down on the old favorite and then let you in on a colorful little twist I’ve recently discovered!
For your rocket, you need this rare antique called a film canister. In this digital age, you may think these don’t exist anymore, but there are still some purists out there. Go somewhere where film is developed and ask for empty canisters. They always seem happy to oblige. (In my experience, the white ones like the one above, with the lids that fit inside rather than outside, seem to make better rockets.)
If you like, you can add wings and what-not to your rocket, but it’s not necessary. Fill your canister about 1/2 way full with water, and drop 1/3-1/2 of an Alka-Seltzer tablet in. Snap the cap on and place the canister lid side down onto the ground. Then get back a few feet and start your countdown. After a few seconds, the pressure builds up in the canister, shooting it up into the air a good 10 feet or more!
If you haven’t guessed on your own, this is an outside activity. And of course, you want to keep yourself and your kiddos a safe 10 or more feet away. Sometimes, you’ll get “duds” that simply foam out of an opening in the lid and never explode, but don’t be too anxious to scoop these ones up. Some have gone off after foaming out like this. So give them a few minutes to decompress before rushing in.
For a fun spin on an old classic, my kiddos and I added some watercolor powder to each canister and let it blast off on a large piece of art paper. It resulted in some lovely abstract art! This also gave the little hands something more to do as they shook the color into the water before I added the “fuel tablet”.
This activity is a great tie-in to any space, motion, or transportation theme. It is a fantastic science activity as the questions naturally flow while the children discuss how the rockets move. So round up those little astronauts and start your own shuttle launch today!