Teaching Earth Science Using Hot Air Balloonsby: James Kuhl and Karen Shaffer

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Constructing model hot air balloons is an activity that captures the imaginations of students, enabling teachers to present required content to minds that are open to receive it. Additionally, there are few activities that lend themselves to integrating so much content across subject areas. In this article, the authors describe how they have successfully used hot air balloons to teach metric measurement, proportions, trigonometric functions, density, convection, data collection and analysis, principles of engineering, and many other concepts and skills.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:03 AM

This article presents an activity where students construct a simple hot air balloon from tissue paper. I have seen these done with students and they are thrilled to see something they created fly without helium. It provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss convection (with the balloon to demonstrate) as well as density. The directions are clear and alternatives are provided as far as teacher materials to use for launching the balloons.

Tina Harris  (Bloomington, IN)
Tina Harris (Bloomington, IN)

  • on Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:20 PM

This article not only provides instructions on how to build and fly a tissue paper hot air balloon but it also provides a way to make it an interdisciplinary event. The math is in the construction of the balloon, the science in hot air and density, and the language arts in the writing process and the social studies in the history behind hot air balloons. Having once made one years I know that the materials are simple (pencils, ruler, protractor, tissue paper, and glue) this is a great, fun activity for middle school students.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:03 PM

This article presents an intriguing way to integrate and present content across the curriculum. According to the author hot air balloons can be used "to teach metric measurement, proportions, trigonometric functions, research skills, public speaking, editing and revising compositions, density, convection, data collection and analysis, the history of flight, principles of engineering, and many other concepts and skills." Creating the balloon may prove challenging, and flying it will be a challenge if you do not have access to a wide open space, but certainly an interesting concept.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

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