Mission: Energy Transformation - Lesson Plan

Grades 9-12 | 6 (45 min) classes

Topics Covered

Kinetic and Potential Energy Transformations

Essential Question

How does a model rocket’s flight demonstrate energy transformations within a system?
Mission Energy Transformation Lesson Banner


In this captivating six-day, 45-minute-per-class lesson, high school students will explore the exciting world of energy transformations in the context of model rocketry. The guiding inquiry 'How does a model rocket’s flight demonstrate energy transformations within a system?' lays the foundation for a practical exploration of energy dynamics. The program begins with an engaging ball drop demonstration and a short physics history scavenger hunt, both of which introduce students to the Law of Conservation of Energy and the concept of Energy Transformation. The journey then continues with the PHET Skate Park simulation, serving as a tool to deepen students’ understanding of energy principles. The lesson plan incorporates hands-on activities, where students will construct, launch, and collect data from their own model rockets. On the final day, students devote their time to analyzing launch data, validating energy conservation concepts, and reflecting on the week's learning experiences. The lesson culminates in an energy modeling exercise, ensuring students have a solid grasp of the key concepts of energy transformation in rocketry.

Note to Educators: This lesson caters to all experience levels but holds particular value for those new to the intricacies of rocket building. It is highly recommended that teachers construct a model rocket beforehand to better guide the students through each step. Having a concrete example in the classroom can illuminate the process and offer insights into challenges your students may face. Enjoy your expedition into the dynamic world of rocket science!


Each Student Needs:

  • Safety Goggles
  • Student Portfolio

Each Classroom Needs:


Next Generation Science Standards Logo


Create a computational model to calculate the change in the energy of one component in a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) and energy flows in and out of the system are known.


Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

Common Core State Standards Initiative Logo

Common Core Standards - Math


Choose and produce an equivalent form of an expression to reveal and explain properties of the quantity represented by the expression.

Common Core Standards - ELA


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, analyzing the specific results based on explanations in the text.


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Acceleration (a)

Rate of change of velocity over time.

Chemical Potential Energy (CPE)

Energy stored in chemical bonds; released or absorbed during reactions.

Energy Transformation (ΔE)

Changing energy from one form to another.

Gravity (g)

Force attracting a body toward the center of the earth or another mass.

Height (h)

Vertical distance from a base level, such as ground or sea level, to an object.

Kinetic Energy (KE)

Energy due to an object's motion, dependent on mass and velocity, measured in Joules.

Law of Conservation of Energy

Principle that states energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.

Mass (m)

Measure of the amount of matter in an object.

Potential Energy (PE)

Energy due to position or internal stress, measured in Joules.

Velocity (v)

Speed of an object in a given direction. Measured in terms of displacement per unit time, in a specific direction.

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