Friday, May 18, 2001

Blowing off steam


Paper balloons give 6th-graders air of confidence

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

[photo] Volunteer Mark George helps students assemble a crepe-paper hot air balloon.
(Dick Swaim photos)
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        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — When Austin Herbst saw his group's tissue-paper hot-air balloon fly into the sky Thursday, he let out a whoop of joy.

        “We thought it would go down because of the weight,” Austin, 12, said minutes after the 12:30 p.m. launch in the parking lot at Heritage Elementary School. “We found lots of holes after we built it and we kept taping them up.”

        Austin's balloon was one of a dozen that made it into the air before a thunderstorm forced the students back inside. Powered by hot air generated by a propane gas stove, the balloons soared several feet into the air and across the parking lot before returning to the ground. One balloon landed on the school's roof.

        “It felt great!” said Nick Tate, 12, as he watched his group's balloon soar.

        The exercise served two purposes, said teacher Lori Vanover. The students tested scientific principles they had studied, and it served as a fun class project before the students advance to junior high school.

[photo] Students watch a balloon lift off.
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        “We call it up, up and away — to seventh grade,” Ms. Vanover said.

        Altogether, 30 balloons were built by the school's six sixth-grade classes during a 90-minute period before lunch. Each group had 10 long sheets of tissue paper onto which they traced the balloon's pattern. The sheets had to be glued together precisely according to instructions and tied at the top with string. The mouth was formed with coat hangers and masking tape.

        Decorations were drawn on the balloons with crayons to keep rips to a minimum.

        One group of girls raced to patch holes in their balloon and get it airborne before the storm hit, but came up short.

        “The seams were coming apart,” said Cathy Loasby, their parent helper.

       



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