City of Page and PUSD turn science into balloon fun

PUSD employee Erinn Benally waves goodbye as she lifts off on her first balloon ride.

The Page Unified School District partnered with the City of Page, which organized several opportunities for PUSD students and teachers to engage with hot air balloons and balloon pilots during this year’s Balloon Regatta.

It began Thursday morning when balloon pilots visited Lake View Primary, Desert View Intermediate and Page Middle School. The students got to watch as the balloon pilots and their crews laid out the balloons on the lawn and inflated them. Back inside the classrooms, student learned the science behind how a balloon lifts off, floats in the air, and is moved by air currents. 

In Jody Talbot’s fifth grade science class, students got to move from flight theory to hands-on application when they built their own balloons out of tissue paper, glue, tape and pipe cleaners.

As part of Thursday’s Balloon Regatta Education Day, the kids carried their delicate balloons to the Desert View playground, where City of Page employees helped them test-fly their creations. 

The Page employees brought with them a chimney that fit over a standard propane burner. The paper balloons are held over the chimney and filled with hot air until they’re ready to float away, at which point the person manning the chimney lets the balloon go. Some fly 40 or 50 feet in the air and drift across the playground. Some, due to air leaks, go only a short height and short distance. Some catch fire and burn up.

Desert View fifth grader Summer Tan said it was one of her favorite parts of the school year. She especially liked the creation part of the project.

Creating and flying tissue paper balloons is something Desert View has participated in for years.

“The kids love it,” Talbott said. “And some of them create some really good balloons. In the past, we’ve had some fly as far as Walmart.”

It’s something Desert View Principal Mary Stahl looks forward to every year. 

“It’s the best weekend in Page,” she said. “I love walking out of the school and seeing them floating in the sky. It’s such a surreal thing. It gives our fifth graders something to look forward to, too.”

On Friday, the City of Page arranged for several PUSD employees – Clarissa Hanks, Selene Henderson and Erinn Benally – to crew for one of the balloon pilots flying that day. After helping their pilot, Gary Godfrey, and his crew lay out and air up the balloon, Henderson and Benally got to fly in the balloon.

It was the first time flying in a hot air balloon for Benally. She loved it.

“It was absolutely terrifying and amazing, all at once,” she said. “It knocked my socks right off.”

Benally said her flight in the balloon was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I was scared all last night and all during the lift off, but I’m so glad I did it,” she said. “It was great experience. I checked something off my bucket. My favorite part was floating so slow across the city. The slow speed of it was great. It was so nice and calm.” 

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