Fifth graders fly hot air balloons

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“It was a cold and beautiful morning. The fog had finally burned off, and it was only about 38 degrees, perfect for flying tissue-paper hot-air balloons. … We held the balloon over the burner. Mr. Nelson gave us instructions … and then we counted down from 10.” —Lacy

“It was amazing what a balloon could do! It flew high into the sky. The morning’s cold, but the heater that heated the balloons gave us warmth.” —Emmanuel

Geoff Nelson’s fifth grade class at Woodland Intermediate School built and flew hot air balloons made of tissue paper in February as part of a culminating event from a months-long geology unit.

How does geology—the study of Earth’s processes, materials and history—relate to balloons? Nelson explains:

“Convection currents move Earth’s plates, cause currents in water and wind in the air. Where there is a difference in temperature, convection can occur. With flying the balloons, the greater the difference between the outside temperature and the inside temperature of the balloon, the higher the balloons will fly.”

The students made each balloon by cutting out and gluing 12 panels of tissue paper. Then they waited for a cold, perfectly still day. When it arrived, they carried their balloons outside, channeled hot air from a Coleman cook-stove into the balloons, counted down from 10 … and let go.

building balloons

liftoff prep


fly away

class photo

“Nothing quite matches the sight, sound and feel of marching outside for the release and flight of colorful handmade balloons on a crisp, sunny morning,” Nelson says. “It is making a memory that many students will never forget.”

Watch the hot air balloons take off on the District Facebook page