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Year 3 & Year 5 Forces workshop

(can be taught to other year groups)

Power Stephenson's Rocket, paper rockets, rocket cars

and paper aeroplanes in this thrilling forces workshop



National Curriculum suggested year group:

All KS2 but Y3 and Y5 have specific objectives related to forces or Earth and Space.

Duration (for single class, multiple classes normally share a day with one or two sessions each):

Full day or a single session as part of a science day

NC objectives covered:

Any forces such as gravity, thrust, friction and drag, apart from magnets.

Stephenson's Rocket!

Stephenson's Rocket!

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This is one of our most popular workshops that, as well as directly addressing the NC science objectives for Y3 and Y5 (Forces, Earth and Space), is such a wow experience that it is also booked by schools for across KS2 for science weeks.


The basic workshop involves pupils learning about steam power with our model Stephenson's Rocket; thrust, gravity and drag with our paper rockets, and friction and downforce with our paper rocket cars.


Y3 teachers please note that apart from passing references it doesn't cover magnets as we find that this is a limited topic that is easily covered by many teachers already in class.  Instead, the aim of the workshop is to fill in the rest of the forces topic that may not be so easy to cover.


(This can be for one class, several classes in turn, or choose one activity as part of a multi science day with other classes)


Beginning with the incredible Stephenson's rocket from 1829, pupils learn about the rise of steam power and discover how steam pistons work with the story of the Rainhill trials.  


Focusing on steam pressure, atmospheric air pressure and friction, this unique activity allows pupils to power our working model of 'Rocket' around a 25 foot track.

What is more it is also a competition to see who can get it around the fastest by balancing its control and speed!

looking at Stephenson's Rocket in our key stage forces science workshop


making rocket cars ready to race

After a short introduction and explanation of Karl Benz's first 1885 motorcar, we look at the development of the automobile into the 600 million plus vehicles worldwide that we recognise today.


The related activity for this invention involves pupils designing their own rocket car in either pairs or alone to race against fellow pupils.  


Several competitive challenges are then possible depending on your space and needs, from an aerodynamic challenge where pupils make wings to enable their car to run straight, to speed or distance challenges which are equally good fun and a great way to learn about the intricacies of car aerodynamics in one of the most fun activities in this science workshop.


Shared with our Rockets to Rovers  and KS2 Rocket Challenge workshops, this activity explores the forces of thrust, gravity and air resistance behind rocket power, beginning with an introduction on how rockets worked.


This is then followed by pupils making their own paper rockets to launch either skywards for a height challenge (weather permitting) or across the hall or classroom towards targets for an accuracy challenge.

This is one of our most popular activities which is why it appears in three science workshops!  The thrill of making and firing their own rockets is a happy memory for many pupils who have done it even long after the workshop is over. 

shooting space rockets in our year 3 workshop


primary pupils designing and racing paper aeroplanes

Many pupils know how to make a paper plane but do they know the science behind it and how to make the best one?

In this activity we look at the history and design of aeroplanes through the ages and teach pupils to make a range of intersting paper plane designs.

This then comes to a brilliant finale with a race against their friend's planes!  Who can be the ultimate paper plane champion?

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