High School History Lesson Plan for Movie and Book, October Sky

Originally Known as The Rocket Boys

A lesson plan for movie, October Sky, should begin with an introduction into the history behind the movie. October Sky is based on

October Sky by Homer Hickam

the true story of a group of young boys in rural Virginia who, in 1957, fell in love with the dream of sending a rocket into space. Through multiple trials and tribulations, they eventually gain the recognition they deserve. They all go off to college, and the author of October Sky (originally called The Rocket Boys) goes on to a career at NASA.

One of the exciting things about teaching this unit is that students can find adults in their lives who will remember the launch of Sputnik as well as the other pivotal events of the late 50s and 60s. This will help students when they compare and contrast that time with today.

Prior Knowledge:

Before viewing the movie, discuss the key events from Sputnik to the Moon landing in 1969. Mind-map what the students know about technological advances of that time. Create another mind-map of historic events they may know already. Create a time line that can be posted on the wall during this unit.

Compare and Contrast

Movies are a great way to bring history alive. This lesson plan will use the movie October Sky to teach students about the birth of the


Space Age.


  • Students will learn and understand the significance of the events that took place from October 1957 to July 1969.
  • Students will think critically about these events and the recent advances in technology, comparing and contrasting their significance.
  • Students will be able to discuss how following a passion can lead to success.
  • Students will be able to articulate their own passion as well as recognize their own support systems.


  • Watch the movie, October Sky.
  • Discuss the importance, historically, of the boys' tenacity to keep working toward sending up a rocket.
  • Discuss passion and support systems – write a reflection paper on this topic (see Tools for Discussion for more information)
  • Compare and contrast the technological advances made during the time of the movie with today's advances.
  • Have students pick one specific advance from today to research.
  • Once they have finished researching, have them create a presentation to demonstrate how this advance came to fruition (i.e., they will tell who got the idea, the trials they faced in getting their discovery noticed and the final outcome of this discovery) Presentations can be done in PowerPoint, or as a poster presentation.


Students will be assessed on their participation during class discussions, their ability to compare and contrast showing reasonable evidence for their choices, as well as their ability to create a presentation that is interesting an on the subject.

Tools for Discussion

When discussing the movie, have students reflect on the trials Homer and his friends faced. Make a list of the people and events that kept interfering with their goals. Make another list of the people and events that aided in their success. Discuss how having support helps people to keep moving toward their goals. Ask the students what they think might have happened to Homer and the others if they had no support. Ask students to write a reflective paper on something they are passionate about, telling who or what supports them in their pursuit of their goals. Do not grade this paper traditionally; rather, give credit (pass/fail) for completing the paper.

This lesson plan for the movie October Sky is a great introduction to the Space Age. In addition, it is an excellent example of how trial and error can lead to success.


Homer Hickam Website

Sputnik photo credit – Wikicommons