Grades 6-8 | 5-6 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Endo and Exothermic Reactions | Model Rocket Engine Reaction

Essential Question

How do model rocket engines demonstrate thermal energy changes in a chemical reaction?


This hands-on lesson builds on students’ understanding of chemical reactions and introduces the concept of temperature changes. Students are challenged to make a hot pack (using substances in a plastic bag) that an astronaut could use in his or her suit to stay warm when out exploring the Moon. Students will explore different combinations of substances and observe temperature changes of chemical reactions. They will design and test their hot packs.

Students will participate in a rocket launch either with rockets they build themselves or by observing a teacher launching a rocket as a class demonstration. After observing the change in temperature of a model rocket engine after launch, students will apply the information they learned in the hot pack activity to observations they make during and after launch. They will demonstrate their understanding of endo and exothermic reactions by completing one of the assessment projects suggested to answer the question How do model rocket engines demonstrate thermal energy changes in a chemical reaction? Options for the assessment include thought experiments, comics, photo albums, creative writing pieces, etc.

Note: This lesson assumes students have a basic understanding of chemical reactions. Teachers are encouraged to use the Estes Education’s Missing Mass lesson to teach more on chemical reactions prior to this; however, the lessons are designed to stand alone as well.



Note: If conducting this as a class demonstration only one rocket and several engines is needed. Otherwise, one rocket for every two students is suggested.

  • Any of the Estes rockets will work, however we recommend using the Gnome or Star Hopper Note: If you choose to use a rocket with a parachute, students will need to cut a spill hole in.
  • Engine bulk pack corresponding to selected rocket (there are 24 engines in a bulk pack) Note: smaller engines will have a faster landing, thus temperature change will be more accurate
  • Lifetime Launch System

Each Student Needs:

  • Student Portfolio
  • Safety Goggles
  • Endothermic and Exothermic cards

Each Group Needs:

  • 50 mL Water
  • 20 mL Vinegar
  • 20mL Hydrogen peroxide
  • 10 g Baking soda
  • 5-10 g Yeast
  • Steel wool (one steel wool pad will be enough for at least 6 groups)
  • 10 g Epsom salt
  • Measuring spoons or scales
  • Beakers (250mL or 500mL)
  • Graduated cylinders
  • Small sealable plastic bags (3-4)
  • Thermometer

Optional Class Materials


Next Generation Science Standards Logo


Undertake a design project to construct, test, and modify a device that either releases or absorbs thermal energy by chemical processes.


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.


Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


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.


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.

Common Core State Standards Initiative Logo


Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Live, Online Training and 1:1 Support!

Estes Education has been a leader in STEM education for over 60 years. We know that STEM is a vital interdisciplinary topic that requires hands-on and inclusive learning. Explore these supporting materials to take learning to new heights!

Should you have need, you can meet with a member of Education team for FREE, 1:1 online support to learn rocketry basics, how to apply our curriculum, and discover unique teaching strategies. Our team is eager to answer your questions!



A process that leads to a change in the chemical structure of a substance


A chemical reaction in which heat energy is absorbed, causing a decrease in temperature of the surroundings


A chemical reaction in which heat energy is produced, causing an increase in temperature of the surroundings

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