RANCHO SANTA FE — Who knew! Lengths of PVC pipe, duct tape and empty water bottles can be turned into stomp rockets, that go, well … very high.
A group of students from R. Roger Rowe School learned just how to make it happen during an after-school program called ClubXcite, where they are members of the Mechanical Builders and Robotics Club.
On Jan. 31, 12 students came to the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center for the activity. The older children used hacksaws to cut the pipe into the proper lengths. Then, they all received instruction on how to construct the launch pad and make the rocket, all from the pipe, duct tape and a few pieces of cardboard.
“I’m going to name my rocket Blue Lightening,” second-grader Charlie Johnson said.
When they finished with the construction phase, they went out to the blacktop and launched their rockets by stomping on the water bottle. It was impressive to the children and to bystanders.
Alex Johnson, mother of Charlotte, said she loves the program.
“Last week they made catapults. They use them to launch marshmallows around the house,” she said with a laugh.
She added that she liked the idea that the children were having fun while learning.
Indeed on this day, they learned a little about aero dynamics.
“When a child can build something with their own hands, it gives them confidence in their own abilities,” Chelsea Heller, program manager, said. She added that it also helps them think outside the box.
“They are having fun building toys with basic material we find around the house, said Stefan Hochfilzer, founder of ClubXcite, which is about six years old. “It inspires kids to think differently about what can be fun instead of just video games.”
Christie McGonagle, program director of the community center, said she is happy to bring programs such as this to the center for two reasons.
“First, it is a neat program and second we like to offer after school programs that are both interactive and educational,” she said. “Little kids like to see things explode,” she said, adding that everything done is perfectly safe.
The programs last six to eight weeks. Next up will be a mini-tennis camp for mini-players who are in preschool, kindergarten and first grade.
“We put up a mini-net, using mini-rackets and special balls,” Hochfilzer said. “We play real tennis.“
He said the little ones will earn how to volley and how to execute a backhand, forehand and an overhead.
What makes these enrichment programs special is the large amount of personal attention given to each student, Hochfilzer said.
During the after school programs there is one instructor for every four students.
At the recent robotics club, helping Heller and Hochfilzer were Scott Tsuda, a graduate student, and Chris Fleming who is applying to medical school.
There is also more to ClubXcite than just the group after school programs. It offers mentoring and tutoring as well.
The people who help are sort of “hybrids,” part teacher and part friend, who inspire their students to learn and then as a reward, do something fun with them afterward like shooting baskets or some other activity the child enjoys.
The new session of programs begin at the end of February and signups will begin soon.
To learn more, call the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center at (858) 756-2461 or visit www.rsfcc.org. Heller will also answer questions at (858) 922-0617.