What are the two major changes at the beginning of Sonny's junior year at Big Creek High School in October Sky?

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Two major changes that occurred in Sonny's life at the beginning of his junior year at Big Creek High School were that he had to change schools, and that the Russians successfully launched the first space satellite, Sputnik.

The children in the small mining town of Coalwood generally received their first nine years of schooling at the small, local Coalwood School. For the tenth grade, the students were bused "across the mountains to Big Creek, the district high school," which served "kids...from all the little towns in the district." Except for having to catch the bus at six-thirty every morning, Sonny liked high school. Although he still kept his core group of friends from Coalwood, he made a lot of new friends too.

The second significant event that occurred at the beginning of Sonny's tenth grade year, the successful launching of Sputnik, affected not only him, but the nation at large. The United States was surprised and humbled that Russia should have beaten her in the space race, and there was an almost frantic effort to catch up. School curricula was tightened and strengthened so that students would be at the same or better level than that of the Russians, and there was renewed and intense interest in the development of technology that would enable the United States to catch up to the Russians. The Rocket Boys were a direct result of this movement, as Sonny and his friends endeavored to unlock the secret of space travel and create, albeit on a very small scale, a rocket of their own.

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