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Volney Sixth Graders Launch into Learning

Sixth grade science and social studies teacher at Volney Elementary helps a student launch the rocket they engineered.

FULTON – Bill Cahill and the entire sixth grade of Volney Elementary took to the field at their school to launch the rockets the students had so excitedly engineered over the past two weeks.

The sixth grade class along with their family stood outside Thursday as two students at a time approached the table to prepare their rockets for launch.

Then, they all joined together in a countdown from five to launch their rockets into the sky and try to catch them on the way back down.

Sixth grade science and social studies teacher at Volney Elementary helps a student launch the rocket they engineered.
Sixth grade science and social studies teacher at Volney Elementary, Mr. Cahill helps a student launch the rocket they engineered on their own.

“The rocket kits come from CiTi,” said Cahill. “They are a great way to teach the kids. It’s really a culmination of lessons in the unit. We learn about Newton’s laws, physics, aerodynamics and even the history of NASA.”

This is Cahill’s 14th year launching rockets with his students and each year he finds the lesson to be just as successful.

“Any time the kids can see what they are learning, have a physical, hands on project, it helps them better retain the information,” said Cahill.

The lesson coincided with what was being taught in the other classes by math teacher Daniel Bartlett and ELA teacher Stephanie Zimmerman.

“As part of this unit, we focused on the excerpt of JFK’s 1962 speech at Rice University regarding the space program. We read it, we watched it, we drew a lot of information from it. At the introduction of this event, we played that excerpt, and to hear the kids finishing his sentences along with him is just amazing,” said Cahill.

The students seemed to equally enjoy the inspiration the JFK was able to provide with his iconic speech.

“When he says, ‘We choose to go to the moon’, he says it with this tone, that just makes you believe him,” said sixth grader Alicia Collett.

“He was very persuasive, he really believed it and how important it was. Not just for us, but for the whole world,” added fellow classmate Makayla Ellis.

The entire sixth grade of Volney Elementary along with their family watch as each student launches their own rocket into the sky.
The entire sixth grade of Volney Elementary along with their family watch as each student launches their own rocket into the sky.

“As much as the lesson is about content, the inspirational part is just as important,” said Cahill.

To build on that inspiration, Cahill had the students watch the movie October Sky, in which a young man repeatedly builds unsuccessful rockets.

However, he is able to win a scholarship to college from a science fair and after serving in the Vietnam War and gaining an education at college, he returns to launch his final rocket successfully and gain the support of his dismissive father and a career at NASA.

This shining example of perseverance helped the kids as they engineered their own rockets.

“Those fins, they have to be glued on. And not hot glue, regular Elmer’s glue. It’s hard to do, but we brought this lesson of perseverance so they would push through,” said Cahill.

Although there was a 100% success rate in this year’s launch, perseverance would have been the necessary trait to fix a failed rocket and try it again.

The lesson may have even set the course for some students in what they want to do in life.

One student catches her rocket as it parachutes to the ground.
One student catches her rocket as it parachutes to the ground.

“I want to build rockets,” said student Robert Voss. “I want to be an engineer and I am going to go to CiTi for that in high school.”

While the lesson was full of content and inspiration, it provided a great deal of fun for the students as well.

“I was really nervous at first, but it was so much fun! I was scared it wouldn’t launch, but it did and now I want to do it again,” said Madison Palmer.

Many of the students now have plans to buy their own supplies and make more rockets to launch at home.

One student even provided a large rocket that he had purchased on his own to send off as the finale of the event.

“This really comes full circle,” said Cahill. “From the Apollo program to now going to Mars. The people that work on that project are going to be these kids.”