It’s one thing to teach a class featuring handmade rockets for elementary school kids, its another to make that launch an annual eventthat draws the interest of an entire community.
But that’s just what RocketDay in Hamilton Township NJ has beccome. It’s the culimnation of a a lesson and it’s an event.
Every year around this time, the sky above William A. Robinson Elementary School is streaked with handmade rockets, trails of smoke tracing the path.
More than 60 fourth-graders launched their rockets as part of the school’s annual RocketDay. Most of the rockets soared about 350 feet.
Kassidy Dean, 9, was the first to launch her glittery blue rocket.
“It ended up being really fun and it’s really an experience,” she said. “I worked on it for like two hours straight — I just wrapped it in glitter because glitter’s my thing.”
Retired fourth-grade teacher Jerry Iacona got the idea to teach his students about aerospace and model rocketry after finding a kit of rockets under the school stage in 1974. After a suggestion from the principal to involve all fourth-grade classes, the tradition of RocketDay was born.
Iacona said he has been working with the fourth-graders over the past few months to teach them about aeronautics in preparation for Rocketday.
The students constructed their rockets with cardboard and other materials and could choose whether to use three, four or five fins at the base. The rockets were launched electronically using a cartridge and an igniter wire.
“All of the rockets are going up very successfully. We’re getting some nice launches today,” Iacona said. “I was a little worried about the wind, but it’s a nice day today.”
The launches were preceded by a procession of Colette Pluta’s special education class accompanied by John Ketterer’s band of fifth-graders. Pluta’s class presented Iacona with the ceremonious “egg”stronaut, a raw egg to be launched from his own rocket.