Grades 6-8 | 5 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Impact of Payload Mass on Altitude

Essential Question

How does the mass of a rocket's payload affect the maximum height it can achieve?


This hands-on lesson offers two pathways for teachers to choose from to answer the question “How does the mass of a rocket’s payload affect the maximum height it can achieve?” In the first pathway, students will build a rubber band rocket to see the effect of mass on the altitude the rocket reaches. In the second pathway, students will complete an online, interactive investigation of the effect of mass on a rocket.

Both pathways will lead to a rocket build and launch, where students will add a payload of pennies to the rocket and analyze the effect of mass on the altitude reached by a model rocket. For the assessment, students will use a CER model to answer the essential question.

Note: This lesson is derived from the unit “Does Mass Matter?” For a more in-depth look at the relationship of mass to altitude, acceleration, and velocity, we recommend that unit.


Each Student Needs:

  • Student Portfolio
  • Safety Goggles

Each Group Needs:


Next Generation Science Standards Logo


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.


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!



The peak altitude of a model rocket


The items needed for the design to be successful


The limitations or boundaries of the design


The amount of matter in an object


The objects being carried by an aircraft


The amount of gravitational pull on an object

Learn About Model Rocket Safety!

Not sure how to safely launch a rocket with your group? Head over to our dedicated Safety instructions page for videos, support, and more!