Video
Supplements: Space
Lift Off!
Overview
Students use a very long hall and a roll of toilet paper
to illustrate the vastness of the solar system. They then
make rockets and shoot them off to measure the distance
of their flight.
Outcome
Students will gain an understanding of the distance
between planets. They also will see how variables
affect how
far a simple rocket will fly. In measuring the distance,
students
will gain practice in converting measurements from
centimeters to meters.
Standards Addressed — Mathematics
Grade
4
Use Measurement Techniques and Tools, Benchmark B
05. Make simple unit conversions within a measurement
system; e.g., inches to feet, kilograms to grams,
quarts to gallons.
Grade 5
Use Measurement Techniques and Tools, Benchmark B
05. Make conversions within the same measurement
system while performing computations.
Materials
Part One:
Part Two:
Procedure
Part One: Laying Out the Solar
System

Tell students that the planets are
very far away and that each
sheet of toilet
paper represents
10
million
miles.

Tape the sun to the
floor at one end of a very long hallway.
Tape
the end
of a toilet
paper
to the
floor
by the sun.

Carefully unroll
the toilet paper. You may want to tape
the paper down
at various
points.
Count 3.6
sheets
from
the sun and place the
planet Mercury.
 Continue as
follows:
Venus is 3.1 sheets from
Mercury
Earth
is 2.6 sheets
from
Venus
Mars
is 3.3
sheets
from
Earth
Jupiter
is 34.3
sheets
from
Mars
Saturn
is 40.3
sheets
from
Jupiter
Uranus
is 90
sheets
from
Saturn
Neptune
is 101
sheets
from
Uranus
If
you want
to
include poor
old
Pluto — which
lost
its status
as a
planet — it
is 86.4 sheets from Neptune

Doublecheck: The earth
is 3.6 +3.1 +2.6 =
9.3 sheets from
the sun.
Each
sheet is 10
million
miles,
so the
earth is 93 million
miles from the sun.

Ask students
what other way they could measure
the distance.
What
would they
use — centimeters,
meters or kilometers?

Extension #1: Have the students make a scale
model
of the planets
using graph
paper with
accurate distances.
This is a good
use of proportion.

Extension #2: Using
the scale
model, the solar system
could
be hung from
the ceiling.
 Extension
#3: A light year is 5,880
billion
miles
(5.88 x 10^{12}
miles).
A toilet
paper sheet represents
10 million
miles.
The nearest star is 4.3 light
years
away.
Have
the students
determine
how many
toilet
paper sheets away
the
nearest
star is. (Answer: The nearest
star
is 4.3 x 5.88
x 10^{12}
miles away or 25.3 x 10^{12} miles away.
Divide
that by 10 million
to get the number
of toilet
paper
sheets,
and you get
2.53
million sheets.)
Distances
of Planets from
the Sun
Object 
Distance (millions of miles) 
Distance (millions of kilometers) 
Mercury 
36 
59 
Venus 
67 
108 
Earth 
93 
150 
Mars 
140 
225 
Jupiter 
484 
780 
Saturn 
884 
1425 
Uranus 
1,786 
2,880 
Neptune 
2,799 
4,515 
(Source:
This part of the lesson
is
adapted from
one presented
by Dr. Alan
Pringle,
University of MissouriRolla.)
Evaluation
This is a group activity and
participation is the key element.
Part
2: Building
and Shooting a Rocket

Divide
the students into groups of two or three.
 Each group
will gather necessary materials and build a rocket.
Demonstrate building
a rocket with
the class
as follows:
Wrap a
piece of paper around a film canister
or the
end of a
roll of
toilet paper.
(You should
have some empty
toilet paper
rolls if you did the
top part of this
activity.)
Tape it shut. This is the
body of the
rocket. You
will use a straw as
the shooting device,
so you don’t
want to make
the body
of your rocket
longer
than the
straw.
Cut
out a circle
of
any size
and
cut away
1⁄4
of it.
Make
the circle
into
a cone
that fits on
the top
of the
rocket.
Add fins
to the
rocket.

Insert a straw into
the bottom of
your rocket and
shoot it.
(It is suggested
that
safety
goggles be worn
to prevent
eye damage.)
Practice a few times.

Have a class discussion
about the variables
and the effect
that the variables
will
have on the
distance the
rocket flies.
Some variables include these:
Diameter of rocket
Size of cone
Flap location and size
Amount of air blown
through the straw
Weight of the rocket
(how much tape is used, how
heavy the paper is)
Angle
of the launch

After some practice,
ask the students
to estimate the distance
that they
think the
rocket will
go.

Have them shoot
the rocket
on the solar system
course
that was
laid out
on the
floor.
Measure the distance
in centimeters
that the rocket flew.
As another
option,
shoot the
rocket and simply
measure the
distance
it flew without
the solar
system course. Centimeters
can
then be
converted to meters.

Have
students complete the handout.

You could make
this
a contest and give
a prize
for the farthest distance.
Evaluation
Category

4

3

2

1

Construction — Materials 
Appropriate materials were selected and creatively
modified in ways that made them even better. 
Appropriate materials were selected and there was
an attempt at creative modification to make them even
better. 
Appropriate materials were selected. 
Inappropriate materials were selected and contributed
to a product that performed poorly. 
Modification / Testing 
There was clear evidence of troubleshooting, testing
and refinements based on data or scientific principles. 
There was clear evidence of troubleshooting, testing
and refinements. 
There was some evidence of troubleshooting, testing
and refinements. 
There was little evidence of troubleshooting, testing
or refinement. 
Function 
The rocket functions extraordinarily well, holding
up under atypical stresses. 
The rocket functions well, holding up under typical
stresses. 
The rocket functions, but deteriorates under typical
stresses. 
The rocket has fatal flaws in function, with complete
failure under typical stresses. 
Accuracy of Student Handout 
The scale drawing is accurate. Distances are accurately
measured. 
There is some distortion in the scale drawing. Distances
are accurately measured. 
There is some distortion in scale drawing and some
error in measuring distances. 
Little attempt is made to do an accurate job on either
scale drawing or measurements. 
(Source: Rocket idea adapted
from NASA — An
Educator’s
Guide With Activities
in Science, Mathematics
and Technology, EG20030106108HQ)
