Simplified Water Rockets - Elementary Science Fun




Introduction: Simplified Water Rockets - Elementary Science Fun

About: Elementary school teacher and writer with a degree in IT Security and Elementary Education. I have been voiding warranties since 1975. Created a surround sound system at the age of 7. Constructed my own FM tra…

One of my favorite teaching subjects is science. However, many of the hands-on science projects are slanted towards the middle or high school grades. While the standards for elementary science are simplified as compared to middle or high school.

Projects for 2nd-5th grade requires:

  • too many materials
  • a lot of adult supervision - especially with glue (heated or not)
  • expensive if ready made kits are used. **Don't like kits because opportunities for teachable moments are lost**
  • kids (1st/2nd grade) with a better than average attention span.

Many of the rocket projects on instructables.comare similar to what we used in Cub Scouts. However, the skill set for those rockets were well beyond the skill level of a barely unsupervised 2nd grader or required a lot of adult intervention to finish the rocket.

This rocket not only covers 1st to 5th grade TEKS, but puts the project directly in the hands of the child who can complete the rocket from start to finish in a typical 50 minute period.

The goals of this design are:

  1. Can be made by a 1st grader with minimal instruction.
  2. Uses recycled or re-purposed materials (free materials).
  3. Completes with items typically found in a standard classroom.
  4. Does not create an unholy mess (glue and 1st graders don't get along).

If anyone has a (simple, easy, clean) upgrade, please email me.

Step 1: Materials

This is a very short and simple list. I will provide it in both English and Spanish so other teachers can cut and paste into newsletters going home. Each student will need:

  1. A 32oz soda bottle with feet - flat bottom bottles won't work. (See picture)
  2. A 16oz soda bottle with feet - same comment as in item 1.
  3. Fin template printed out on heavy card stock or use option A.
  4. Packing tape - 12 inches per student
  5. Standard office transparent tape. Six students can share a dispenser.
  6. Student scissors.


A. Print the Fin template out on regular paper and paste it to a cereal box. Fold as directed.

B. Ducting (Duck) tape can be used instead of packing tape.

Cada estudiante tendrá que:

  1. Una botella de refresco de 32 oz con los pies - botellas de fondo plano no funcionarán. (Ver foto)
  2. Una botella de refresco de 16 oz con los pies - el mismo comentario que en el punto 1.
  3. Plantilla Fin impreso en papel grueso o utilice la opción A.
  4. Cinta de embalaje - 12 pulgadas por estudiante
  5. Office Standard cinta transparente. Seis estudiantes pueden compartir un dispensador. Tijeras de Estudiantes. opciones:

A. Imprimir la plantilla Fin a cabo en hojas de papel y pegarlo en una caja de cereal. Doblar según las indicaciones.

B. Conductos (pato) de cinta se puede utilizar en lugar de cinta de embalaje.

Step 2: Prepare the Bottles.

Teachers: If your students are doing this, get them into the habit of cleaning up after EACH step. Especially after removing the labels and cutting the fins.

  1. Remove the label and plastic ring from the bottle.
  2. Rinse the bottle with water.
  3. Clean up work area.

Step 3: Attach Bottles

  1. Connect the bottom of bottles together until they lock against each other. (As Matt demonstrates).
  2. Use strips of transparent tape to secure the bottles together.
  3. Use a 12 inch section of packing/duct tape to wrap around bottles

Step 4: Cut, Fold and Attach Fins

Safety Check

Teachers: Conduct a safety check regarding best practices when using scissors.

Download the attached fin template.

Cut fins

  1. Cut all five fins around the outside edge of the fin. Do not cut inside the fin
  2. Clean up area when done.

Fold fins

  1. Fold fins alone Fold line 1 (this will be a symmetrical shape).
  2. Fold fin outward along Fold line 2.
  3. Fold other fin outward along Fold line 3.

Attach fins

Attaching the fins and be challenging. The folded side of the fin faces up towards the smaller bottle. Use small strips of transparent tape for this step.

  1. Place tape on one side of the fin near Fold 2. The tape should be overlapping more than half of the fold.
  2. Align the fin to the rocket center line and attach fin.
  3. Tape the other side of the fin on Fold 3. The fin should be closed leaving no gaps.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 until complete.

Step 5: Tada!


The rocket is ready to launch.

Teachers: This is a great time to reflect on your students efforts to build a rocket. A short writing/drawing assignment aligning with grade level TEKS is recommended. If you need help, message me for a lesson plan.

I will be publishing plans for a simplified rocket launcher in a week or so.

This students shown in this instructable range from 1st to 4th grade.

Kind and constructive feedback appreciated.

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    Question 2 years ago on Step 5

    How do you launch the rocket?


    7 years ago on Step 4

    About the fins. Some of my kiddos printed the fin template on regular paper and two issues came about. 1. They were not attaching the fins completely folded at Fold Line 1 and 2. They were using standard paper with the expectation that the fins would hold up after the launch. To address this, I recommend the following:

    1: Add a staple to (the open part of the fin) to close the gap.

    2. Cut out the paper template and tape it down to an empty cereal box. Use the box to make fins.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I applaud you for working with kids that young. I do rocket launches with 3rd through 8th graders as part of an
    engineering outreach program. We have
    limited time so building a rocket in class is not feasible. This does sound like a nice homework project

    Have you tried the NASA water rocket simulator?

    It allows you change the variables (water level, pressure, fins,
    etc.) and plots a virtual launch.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Greetings Mtairymd,

    First, thank you for the kind words. My kids read these comments and they are greatly appreciated. I have not tried the simulator, but I will take a look as I am always looking for something to put into a lesson plan.

    The girls featured in the cover picture made their rockets in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool! Do you just use a homemade launcher for these rockets?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes and that Instructable will be posted next week. Guessing the cost of the launcher to be less than $5.00 minus the air pump.