Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hot Air Balloon Unit

Hot air balloons (and gas balloons) have a pretty fascinating history. I knew there would be lots of related scientific principles to learn, but I didn't know about the use of balloons as the first "air force" in several wars, notably the Civil War. The book Lincoln's Flying Spies (Gail Jarrow) was really interesting. It was too long for me to read the whole thing to the children, but I read it all myself, and then read excerpts to them, and summarized other parts, and we looked at the pictures.

Of course the highlight of the unit was getting to see the hot air balloons at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, but we also really enjoyed the Balloon Museum there at the end of the launch field. There were a lot of hands-on activities, some of which we skipped because of the crowds, and we also liked seeing several historic balloons---ones used for transatlantic flight attempts, etc. I feel like it's kind of sad that, because of all the advantages airplanes have over balloons, the impetus to make passenger airships, etc., kind of fizzled out. Not that I don't like airplanes---but there's something so majestic and beautiful about a balloon. I'd love to ride in one of those big zeppelins or airships! :)

I was also just thinking how nice it is to have a usable vocabulary about various subjects. I don't care about knowing all the fancy jargon that only experts use, but it's just satisfying to be able to say (and have the children say), "Look, now the hot air is going through the skirt into the envelope!" rather than "Look at that flap part directing the air into the balloon part!" Or, "He opened the parachute valve!" instead of "The top flap thing is opening!" It's not that big of a deal, but I just like being more accurate and effective in our speech. And I like hearing the children use those words even when they are just playing with each other.

Here's a good overview of how balloons work:

Parts of a balloon:

A coloring page---no educational value, but it was fun to color rainbow balloons

We watched several videos of hot air balloons and balloon flights:

This one was cool (amazing scenery!):

This was also good:

And here is Daisy riding in the hot air balloon Abraham built for her! (that's my big exercise ball under the blanket on top) :)

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