Does Mass Matter - Unit Plan

Grade 6-8 | 7 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Mass vs Weight | Calculating Force | Velocity | Averages | Graphing

Essential Question

How does mass affect altitude, velocity, and duration of flight?


In this lesson, students will answer the question, Does the mass of a model rocket affect the altitude, velocity and duration of the rocket’s flight? Your students are part of a group of engineers working for Rockets R US which has been contracted to build rockets that will carry the PocketLab Data Analyzer to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). They must be sure that their rockets reach 200ft and contain a payload of no more than 10 pennies to reach the ISS. Students will determine which team member below is correct.

  • Martin Moneysaver wants the rocket to carry only the data payload (PocketLab) to the ISS because he feels that would save money for fuel.
  • Sha’Niece Supersupplier says the rocket needs to be packed with as many things as possible so that the astronauts on the ISS have fresh food, games, clothing, and comfort items from home. She doesn’t think the amount of mass in the rocket really makes much of a difference.
  • Wes Wishywashy is afraid that if they don’t send any supplies for the astronauts the rocket will be too light to fly.

Students will hypothesize how the mass of the payload will affect the rocket’s final altitude. After a review of weight vs. mass, students will practice what they learned and build a straw rocket. After analyzing the data, students will apply those learnings to build the Green Eggs Rocket and plan their payload for their flight. They will state a hypothesis and identify the independent and dependent variables. 

After the flight, the students will combine their data into a class data chart to allow better analysis. They will compare the results and determine the answer to the essential question, “Does Mass Matter?”. 

The student’s final product will be to complete a Claims- Evidence- Reasoning writing piece supporting their final conclusions. A traditional multiple-choice quiz is included for use if needed.


Each Student Needs:

  • Student Design Portfolio
  • Safety Goggles
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Straw
  • Ruler
  • Paper Clips (5-10)
  • Paper 8.5" x 11"

Each Classroom Needs:

  • Weight vs. Mass PowerPoint
  • Stopwatch
  • Meter Sticks
  • Green Eggs Rocket Kit
  • C11-3 Engines
  • PocketLab
  • Glue
  • Exacto Knife
  • Pennies (5-10 per group)
  • Scale
  • Camera (optional)




Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.


Construct and present arguments using evidence to support the claim that gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of interacting objects.


Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object.

MS-ETS 1-1

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS 1-2

Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS 1-3

Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ETS 1-4

Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
Write and evaluate numerical expressions involving whole-number exponents.
Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another.

Common Core Standards not available for this lesson

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The rate at which an object increases its speed.


The peak altitude or highest point of a rocket’s flight.


A push or pull upon an object resulting from the object’s interaction with another object.


The amount of matter in an object.


Cargo (equipment, goods, or materials) carried by a rocket.


A first model from which other models are developed.


The rate of motion or speed in a given direction. Measured in terms of distance moved per unit time, in a specific direction.


The amount of gravitational pull exerted onto an object.

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