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SUBJECTS — Aviation & Space Exploration; U.S./1945-1991;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Parenting; Father/Son; Mother/Son;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect; Caring.
Age: 10+; MPAA Rating: PG; Autobiography; 1999; 108 minutes; Color.
Inspired by the launch of the Russian space satellite, Sputnik (October, 1957), a high school student in a coal town in West Virginia decides to make his own rockets. Despite the opposition of his father, Homer and his outsider friends persist and succeed. They have the support of their science teacher, the town, and Homer's mother. She is determined that her son will not end up as a miner. The boys enter an exhibit showing their work in the science fair and ....
October Sky is a charming tale and the boys' success is inspiring. The movie is taken from an autobiographical novel by Homer H. Hickam, a former NASA engineer.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to October Sky will show teachers how to use the film to spark or enhance an interest in engineering, math, and physics. It will inspire children to work hard to fulfill their dreams. Homer Hickham's story demonstrates the rewards of working toward a goal against daunting odds.
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October Sky will introduce Sputnik, the early days of the space race, the Cold War, NASA, coal towns, and the life of Homer Hickam.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below a paragraph from the Learning Guide to October Sky.
The book is better than the movie and contains a number of wonderful vignettes that are not in the film. For example, as the boys built more complex rockets, Homer realized that they needed to learn calculus to take the next steps in rocket design. Homer and the science teacher convinced the principal of the high school to offer a new course in calculus. The enrollment was limited to six people, the exact number of boys involved in the effort to make the rockets. No one expected anyone else at the school to sign up for the class. However, the girl that Homer had a crush on signed up, too, and since Homer's grades in math were the worst of any of the applicants, he was excluded from the class. The principal at this point was not sure that the Rocket Boys were really up to any good and called them "bombers," a reference to their first effort which had blown up Homer's mother's fence. The principal would not increase the enrollment in the class by one person to allow Homer to take it. Initially, Homer felt that his dreams of a career in rocketry were over but in the depths of his depression, he found a calculus text on the bookshelf at home. There were notes in the book in his father's handwriting showing that his father, who had never gone to college but who was called upon to supervise engineers, had taught himself calculus. Homer began to study the text and the other members of the club helped him. Homer learned calculus without the class, to his own amazement and that of his teachers and the principal.
The Learning Guide to the film October Sky contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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