Since high school I have been crewing for a local hot air balloon company, Buzzards Glory. When the weather is clear and the wind is calm I assist in inflating the balloon, chasing it around town for about an hour and then helping it land, deflate and put it away. It is a wonderful hobby!
This summer the pilot/owner of Buzzards Glory asked me if I would like one of the old balloons for my classroom to cut up and use for projects. Again, like the CDs, I said YES!
Somehow - I'm not really sure how, the huge balloon bag made it into my classroom. Students immediately started to ask me what it was and why I had it. As I tried to explain the hot air balloon I had a lot of students tilt their head in confusion. At that point, I realized what an abstract concept a Hot Air Balloon is if you have never seen one -- so I asked Sue if she would be willing to come out to school and inflate for the students - she was excited to do so.
After a couple mornings of trying to do it and having it be too windy - we finally landed a perfect morning. I made a video that played on morning announcements to give the students some basic information and history about hot air ballooning.
The whole school came outside to watch. It was VERY exciting. The below video was taken by two 4th graders armed with a Flip video camera (the excitement in their voices and the screams of delight from the school is just awesome)
I picked a handful of 4th grade students to help inflate the balloon (they even got to stand in the basket!) and then another group of students to help deflate the balloon and put it away! The whole school had a blast and our building was a ballooning buzz for the next couple of weeks.
Unfortunately the weather got cold fast this year and I was still trying to figure out what kind of project I wanted for this balloon fabric. I spent the year cutting the balloon into smaller pieces - this took MUCH longer than I expected. Throughout the winter I had lots of ideas, but none easy enough for the students to do the majority of the work. Ripstop nylon is awesome stuff - but it isn't easy to sew, glue doesn't really hold it -- so any project I thought of just wasn't going to work for a whole school of kids.
There was one idea I kept coming back to - a windsock. I went through many different thoughts about how this would work, how would the kids make it, what would I need to do..... I had a hard time trying to figure out what the ring part would be and how to attach the fabric. I thought about bending wire - too many students. I thought about cutting two liter bottles -- too many students and a lot of my time to cut all the bottles - besides it might be sharp. I couldn't come up with a solution and then BAM it all made sense. The students were going to be decorating CDs -why not use that?! So I made a prototype to see how hard my idea was... it was beautifully simple. Students would use skills they either already have, or need to master anyway. The hot air balloon windsock idea was born.
First class the students decorated their CDs. For the 2nd class students picked out three strips of hot air balloon fabric to decorate with Sharpies. I encouraged them to use lines and shapes - however the only rule was that everything had to be school appropriate. A lot of students chose to do words or activities. I would have liked to see them be more decorated - but this project was really about them and their choices - so as long as it was school appropriate I accepted. The 3rd class students tied their fabric around the CD using square knots (most already know this from shoe tying, and those who don't should learn how). At the end of the 3rd class the majority of students took home their unique windsocks! Success for all!
<---- This one was done by a student for his mom it says "Love Never Fails"