Lighter than air

Photo by Phil Clark.

Desert View fifth graders learn about hot-air balloons

By Phil Clark
Lake Powell Chronicle

PAGE – On Halloween, students and teachers at Desert View Intermediate, many of whom were in their costume, were able to see real, hot-air balloons fly above their playground. And later that day, the fifth graders flew their own tissue paper balloons and learned how they fly.  

The Balloon Regatta Committee sponsored this educational event as part of a Balloon Regatta Education Day. Lake View Primary students were also treated to seeing balloons lift off from their playground. A fun time was had by all.

Early on Thursday, two balloonists and their crews prepared hot-air balloons for flight at the Desert View playground. Once the balloons were almost ready to rise into the air, the fifth-grade classes were allowed to check the balloons out for themselves and talk to the pilots. One boy came up and mentioned how awesome it was to see this since he had never been around a balloon before. The balloons soon floated into the air as the students went back into their classrooms.

After the balloons landed elsewhere in town, volunteers and members of the regatta committee met at the school to help the students launch their own balloons into the crisp blue air. The students and their teachers met at the playground where volunteers had already set up air heaters. Each heater consisted of a single camping stove burner on which a section of metal chimney was attached to channel the hot air up the chimney. The propane heaters would heat the air and then the hot air would flow up the chimney.

Students had previously made many crepe paper envelopes in the form of balloons to hold the hot air. The balloons showcased the students’ creativity as they were allowed to pick colors and decorate the balloons with pens, pencils and pieces of crepe paper. Each balloon design was similar to an actual hot-air balloon, puffing out at the middle.

To make the balloons, students glued together strips of crepe paper of various colors to form the basic balloon shape. Some students drew with felt tip pens to add more design elements while others glued pieces of crepe paper for more decoration. The creativity they showed was impressive with myriad colors. Individual teams of students put together their own balloon of their own design.

Each team brought their balloon to an area where volunteers held the envelope over the top of the chimney and filled it with heated air. Students stared wide-eyed as their balloon filled with hot air and puffed up. At the right moment, the students would count down, “Five, four, three, two, one,” and the volunteers let go. The balloons floated up above everyone and across the playground as the children excitedly chased their balloon and retrieved it for another flight. From time to time balloons got damaged from various mishaps and required repairs. The repair table had everything needed to fix the balloons: tape, glue, and scraps of crepe paper. Once repaired, the students returned to let their balloon fly again.

The event was a way to teach children about how a hot-air balloon flies by actually making balloons fly before their eyes.  Many children had never made their own hot-air balloons and were delighted at being able to play without realizing they were actually learning. The children learned that as air is heated it becomes lighter than the air around it and causes the balloon to rise in the air.  

They also learned how everything attached to the balloon adds to the overall weight of the balloon. As the balloons were repaired, adding more weight, the students learned that it took more hot air to counteract the weight and rise into the air.  One thing for sure, everyone who participated had a great time and enjoyed getting outside on a beautiful, crisp, sunny autumn day and running around the playground.  When a volunteer asked one of the students if they were having fun, she said, “This is an awesome way to learn.”