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Order October Sky from AmazonOCTOBER SKY
Educator Information

Video Questions | Vocab & Discussion | Answers | Activity1 | Activity 2

Content Areas:

Earth and space science, physics of forces and motion, chemical reactions

Grade Levels: 9-12

 National Science Content Standards:

A = Science as Inquiry
B = Physical Science
D = Earth and Space Science
E = Science and Technology
F = Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
G = History and Nature of Science


In this adaptation of Homer Hickam’s “Rocket Boys” a boy with his friends, inspired by Sputnik,  discover rocketry and construct their own rocket test facility in a coal mining town. His science teacher helps him enter the science fair. He and his partners win the science fair and a life beyond Coalwood.One of the rockets wins a science fair prize, setting the author on a path to NASA.

Good Science:

Rocket parts and functions are accurately described. Proper lab safety is modeled by students. Correct explanations are given for the motion of propellant gas through the nozzle of a rocket.

Bad Science:

Students in the film did not show their careful documentation of their experiments. Such documentation is described in the book, Rocket Boys. The boys unsafely prepare rocket fuel with alcohol over an open flame.

Note to teachers:

bulletWarn students that rocketry is a dangerous activity: proper equipment, safety practices, supervision and knowledge are required.
bulletThis film is recommended for high school classes only, due to mature language ("ass, damn, hell, son of a bitch")

World Wide Web Sites:

bulletThe Universal Pictures October Sky Study Guide is available from http://www.universalpictures.copm/octobersky/studyguide
bulletVisit Homer Hickam, Jr.’s Web site at to find out more about the author’s career in space flight and to ask him a question.
bulletLearn about amateur rocketry. The National Association of Rocketry Web page can link you to local clubs and the Model Rocket Safety Code:
bulletThe Academy of Model Aeronautics Web page includes links to clubs nationwide, and to helpful files such as the National Rocketry Safety Guidelines. Http://
bulletObserve satellites passing overhead. The Heavens Above Web page will give you the schedule of visible satellites and times for your location.
bulletFor more activities related to the science of flight, see the WebWings Web page at

As the information available on the Web is constantly changing we recommend that you search for new sites that relate to this lesson/film.

 Media Center Extension:

bulletAssist students in conducting an author study of Homer Hickam as an autobiographer and historian.
bulletOrganize a Young Astronaut club at the school. Visit for more information.
bulletContact the State or school district science coordinator to find out if your school participates in science fair. Act as a school liaison to support science teachers and students participation.
bulletDevelop a print or online collection of resources to support science fair projects.

 Reading Extension:

bulletBook October Sky or Rocket Boys and sequels The Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone by Homer Hickam

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Copyright © 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008