School launches program that makes physics fun

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Some Valley students are finding the sky's the limit when it comes to success, all thanks to a launch pad at their elementary school.

“We are learning what air pressure does in rockets," says 5th grader Ryan Ensley, as he and his classmates man bicycle pumps, attached to a series of tubes and bottles.

This is just one of the activities offered by the Aeronautic Club at Colina Elementary in the Kyrene School District.

“Four forces of flight, what are they?” asks teacher Arlen Sykes, getting the answer in a chorus of young voices: “Thrust, lift, gravity, and drag."

The club, led by Sykes and fellow teacher Meghan Thompson, has turned physics into fun. “This is something the kids can learn, and they get really excited about it, and really invested and interested,” says Thompson, as the kids fire off a rocket fueled by water and air pressure.

It is a club that focuses on everything from the laws of gravity to the laws of in-flight communication.

5th grader Jonathan Bucci explains how they use the phonetic alphabet, “Because when you are in flight, you can't say, oh hello, you have to have a code for it, so radio is our code," he says.

"This is going to open so many doors and opportunities for them. Just having that foundational knowledge and then taking that to new heights,” Thompson says.

The idea is to prepare these students for wherever life's journey takes them. “So being a doctor, being a nurse, they need to know all of those things. They could go into aeronautics, if they wanted to be in air traffic control.”

Students also learn leadership and teamwork. “And we actually empower the kids with that because we have our safety officer, we have our commander and all that stuff, we actually have a training officer," says Thompson.

Every launch is a lesson in success, according to 5th grader Emma Riggle. “Sometimes you can just think, this does not make sense, but you can understand it so much more when you experience it and see the rocket go up in the air," she says. "So I think that is fun to learn and fun to experience.”

Thompson says that if parents or students have a passion, they should talk with teachers at your child's school. She says teachers are always looking for new ways to keep kids interested and learning. She says chances are, someone at the school will be interested in helping get a club going.