Grades 6-8 | 8 (45 min) Classes

Topics Covered

Rate of Descent | Newton's 3rd Law | Parachute Modifications | Velocity

Essential Question

How does a parachute's design affect the speed of descent of a mdoel rocket?


In this lesson, students will answer the question, “How does a parachute’s design affect the speed of descent of a model rocket?” The students will read a story about humans living on Mars in the year 2323. They must design a way to allow a rocket from Earth to land safely on their planet, Estesonia, as the rocket is carrying fragile, photovoltaic cells, their alternate energy source.

Students will hypothesize how the design of a parachute affects the speed of descent of a model rocket. After a review of different types of recovery systems, students will practice what they learned and build and test a parachute prototype. After analyzing the data, students will apply what they have learned to build the Green Eggs Rocket and plan the parachute 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, “How does a parachute’s design affect the speed of descent of a model rocket?”.

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 desired.


Each Student Needs:

  • Student Portfolio
  • Safety Goggles
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Plastic Grocery Bag
  • Ruler
  • String/ Dental Floss (about 4 feet)
  • Toothpick
  • Market/Highlighter or Small Toy

Each Classroom Needs:




Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.

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.

Common Core Standards not available for this lesson plan.

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


The aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft’s motion through the air.


Force that pulls everything down toward the center of the Earth.



Drag-producing device, generally hemispherical (halfsphere) in shape. Parachutes used in model rockets are generally made from light plastic and are used to gently recover the payload package, rocket body, etc.


A device incorporated into a model rocket for the purpose of returning it to the ground in a safe manner. All model rockets must employ a recovery system (such as a parachute).


Flame resistant tissue packed between the streamer or parachute and model rocket engine protecting the recovery device from hot ejection gases.


The propulsive force that moves something forward.


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

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!