rboys.jpgRocket Boys

Rocket Boys is a book by Homer Hickam about growing up in a rural mining town, Coalwood, WV, in the late 1950s yet aspiring to pursuit a life as a rocket scientist. Werner von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team inspired Homer, also referred to as Sonny. He felt this was his ticket out of Coalwood, yet he hungered for his father's approval. Homer knew he could earn it by following in his father's footsteps and spending his life down in the mines. The movie based on the book Rocket Boys is called October Sky, which is an anagram of Rocket Boys. What does that mean?

Activity Objectives

  1. To explore concepts and themes from the film October Sky that relate to the complex process of coming of age
  2. To enhance students' understanding of historical periods other than their own
  3. To encourage scientific inquiry and promote interest in the history of space technology
  4. To strengthen research and oral presentation skills and offer essay- and creative-writing opportunities

Rocket Boys Activity

For this activity, you will watch October Sky. After watching the movie, complete the following:

Part One: Another Time, Another Place
Explore a world that has been characterized as more "innocent" than the present. Compare song lyrics or favorite TV programs and/or films of the following two eras: fifties and now. Post on the Discussion Board under Another Time, Another Place.


Part Two: Coming of Age
When Homer studies advanced science and math on his own to reach his goal, he demonstrates tenacity; when he temporarily leaves school to work in the mines, he shows us that he loves and feels responsible for family members. Create Homer's graduation speech, showing that Miss Riley, Homer's father and Werner von Braun were significant influences on Homer, but each in a different way. Post on the Discussion Board under Coming of Age.


Part Three: What was it Like?
Interview family members to learn which twentieth-century scientists they believe have had the greatest impact on their lives. Bring your findings back to class. Together with your classmates, put together a chart to see whom your class rates as the most influential scientific figures of this century.

Rocket Boys Resources





rocketboy.jpgBook on Amazon





homer.jpgHomer Hickam Jr. Website