Lesson 1: Air Pressure

Straw Rockets

Activity Developed by the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

Description/Learning goals:

Participants will observe differences of pressure creating movement as air escapes from the rocket.


  • Paper – any size and weight will work, as long as it can be easily rolled up and taped into a tube.
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Straw- Paper or reusable straws are the environmentally friendly option!

Activity Instructions:

  1. Gather materials
  2. Print out the rocket outline shape (optional).
  3. Have the kids color the pre-printed rocket shape or draw their own rocket. Cut out the shape- you may need to assist your child.
  4. Out of the scraps of paper left over from the rocket shape, roll a piece of paper loosely around the straw, and tape the paper into a tube. Be sure the tube is loose enough that you can get it off of the straw easily.
  5. Fold the top of the paper tube over and tape so that it becomes like a cap for the straw.
  6. Tape this paper tube to the back of the cut-out rocket shape.
  7. Place the paper rocket tube over the straw and blow!

Science Concepts:

Air occupies space:

Air pressure can affect weather. Warm air rises, which causes lower air pressure. Cold air sinks, which causes higher air pressure. Air must escape if pressure builds and will move in the direction it can and therefore push objects to move in the opposite direction. Wind is created when there are differences in air pressure in areas near each other.


Why doesn’t the air on Earth escape into the atmosphere? Gravity is pushing down on the air as well, just like it pushes down on us. All objects have gravity. Gravity is a force that pulls objects towards the center of the Earth.


The amount of force that is applied to an area. All around us the air is at a certain level of pressure. This can be changed as weather moves into an area, and can be affected by temperature, moisture, and more. At higher altitudes, air is generally under less pressure.

Early Learning 101: Skills to Practice in This Activity

Recognize and investigate cause-and-effect relationships in everyday experiences – pushing, pulling, kicking, rolling, or blowing objects.

Through this activity, kids will explore the cause and affect of air pressure. They are the ones producing the pressure by blowing into the straw, and can make predictions on what will happen to the rocket as they do so.

Ask questions about what they think will happen if they blow really hard, or ask which direction they think the rocket will go. Changing the cause to see the effect will create connections between the child’s actions and the result in the experiment.

Persistence and Attentiveness: The ability to begin and finish activities with persistence and attention.

This activity has many opportunities to practice some fine motor skills. Feel free to model steps that might still be difficult- like cutting out the rocket shape or helping to roll the paper. Let the child experiment with cutting and some of the more difficult steps. It helps to model the way and step in only when needed to make sure the task isn’t overwhelming to the child.

Follow Up:

Experiment with your rocket- how high can your child make it fly? What obstacles could you build for the rocket to work through