From left to right, Maya Jethani, Marleigh, Kloenna Lindsay-Davis and Jayden Bowers work on their paper rockets with help from Lizzy Coryell of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. (KRBD photo by Raegan Miller).

Are they rocket scientists, or third graders? The students in Mrs. Colleen Smith’s class at Houghtaling Elementary were both Friday morning as they designed, built and launched their own paper rockets with staffers from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Nicole Donovan and Lizzy Coryell have been in Ketchikan all week as part of the museum’s outreach program.  

Coryell told KRBD that these outreach trips were a more regular occurrence, until the pandemic. 

“Getting them interested in things, because I feel like, adults, it can be a lot harder to get started in things when you’re like, ‘I never done that. I don’t think I’m gonna be good at it,'” she said.

Donovan and Coryell spent all week at the school, working on different science projects with students and their families.

They spent an hour guiding a group of students through the process of making paper rockets. KRBD stopped by to watch.

“All right my friends, so, the really important thing with these rockets today: we do not want to cut these dotted lines,” Donovan instructed the class.

Third-graders Maya Jethani, Marleigh, and Kloenna Lindsay-Davis wrap the paper shell of their rockets around PVC pipe, (KRBD photo by Raegan Miller).

Donovan walked the students through decorating their rockets, putting the fins on, and attaching the nose cone.

Markers, scissors and tape cluttered the tables where the students were putting the finishing touches on their rocket’s frame.

It can be difficult to keep young scientists on task, but everyone finished their rockets in about an hour.

It was finally launch time. 

Students react at how far Maya Jethani’s rocket flew down a Houghtaling hallway. From left to right, Marleigh, Liam Garrison, John Holstrom, Scarlett Toole, Jaron Mendoza, Malachi Calvin, Kylie, Maya Jethani, Jayden Bowers and Alysajane Dimayuga. (KRBD photo by Raegan Miller).

Most of the rockets made successful lift-offs, but one or two needed some extra help making it off the launch pad. Shock rippled through the group as one of the scientists explained what went wrong.

Just as with bigger rockets: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Coryell, from the museum, said that’s the whole reason she’s there.

“I think especially from a young age of building students’ confidence in science, and showing them that they can be successful I think is really important,” she said.

Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at