Modern Day Miss Riley – Five Teachers at Wilder Elementary Have a Blast with Rockets

Miss Freida Riley is a familiar name if you’ve ever read Homer Hickam’s Rocket Boys or watched the movie October Sky. Miss Freida Riley was the inspirational chemistry and physics teacher who helped the Rocket Boys of the Big Creek Missile Agency to become successful. Miss Riley was a dynamic teacher who held her students to the highest standard. The fourth graders at Wilder Elementary in Littleton, Colorado look to their teachers as modern day Miss Rileys, especially over the past few days as the students build and launch their own rockets in class. Pictured above is Mrs. Bower, Mrs. Scharton, Mrs. Boorom, and Miss Culver (Mrs. Friesen is not pictured).

“The rocket building activity is so great because our students get to use their creativity as they construct their own rockets,” says Toni Bower, one of the team of fourth grade teachers at Wilder. “As teachers, it is our goal to create a risk-free environment for the students to try out their ideas… to test a hypothesis… tofail… to try again… and to celebrate their own personal success.”

Melissa Culver’s students were beaming from ear to ear yesterday as they packed up their stuff and headed home to do their “rocket building” homework. “My kids were so excited about the launch. One parent came up to me this morning and said, My daughter couldn’t stop talking about rockets last night. I woke up this morning to a rocket whizzing past my head!

The original inspiration for this unit came from the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Download the curriculum and get the plans for the rocket launcher.

The real Miss Riley died in 1969 from Hodgkin’s Disease. To the last, she insisted on teaching even when it was necessary for her students to carry her on a stretcher to her classroom.

4 replies
  1. ryan
    ryan says:

    My rocket, FFTF1, flew 50 yards. It was mainly yellow, but had an orange top. No fins where on it, which I.. uh.. ok, no fancy excuses. I forgot the fins. Why it flew 50 yards is because the tube thingimajigilacallit was square-ish and tight. If only I got fins..
    P.S. FFTF1 is short for “Flying Fishy the Furious 1.”

  2. Meriah
    Meriah says:

    We had such a fun time launching the rockets, and when I lanched my rocket every one in the class went wild and said that mine went the farthest and I was in 3rd place. If I were to lanch the rocket again I would put more fins on the rocket insted of 2.

  3. Bethany
    Bethany says:

    Today my whole class launched our homemade rockets.My
    rocket was 2 diferent shades of blue.I had no finns on
    it because I wanted to see how it would fly without them.
    My rocket didn’t fly very well. It landed in a puddle of
    water by the grass.I think I thnk I should hae put fins on my rocket. It might have went a further distance and it might have not have landed in the water. I didn’t like it when my rocket landed in the puddle. I liked it when Madison’s rocket blew into peices. Thank you Mr Spangler! YOU ROCK(ET)!

  4. matthew
    matthew says:

    Dear.Mr Spangler,
    Today was awesome!At about 11:12 we went out to launch our rockets,it lasted till about 12:20. When it was my turn to go up and launch my rocket I was feeling a little scared. Then it blasted off. When it was about 30 feet away from the launch pad the nose cone flew off when this happened I was pretty scared but it did fine. I think I could have prevented this from happening by attaching the nose cone on the outside instead of attaching it on the inside. I thought that my rocket was very aerodymamic. As I was watching other rockets and examining the other rockets I discovered that the rockets with no fins went farther than the ones with fins. I think that this happpened because when you are launching the rockets for distance you do not need it to be stable you just need it to be light with when you have no fins it helps. Now when you need it for hight it is the opposite. I think that my design would have worked better if i would of not had the fins,had a better material,and i could of made the fins shorter. I also could have improved it by following Newtons Laws better.


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