Abstract

In this poster presentation we report on a high altitude balloon project conducted with third-graders from Gower West Elementary School in Willowbrook, IL in spring 2016. In the weeks before the launch students used a vacuum jar to investigate the effects of pressure changes on different objects, substances and sounds in the classroom and conducted pressure, temperature and wind measurements inside and outside of their school using Vernier probeware. To learn how to use the balloon tracking equipment and how to fill a balloon and prepare it for launch, students simulated a flight with a tethered balloon outside of their school.

After these preliminary activities the students designed and built several experiments with everyday objects such as a latex glove, a party balloon, a plastic soda bottle, a flower, a glue stick and bubble wrap, along with Vernier sensors and GoPro cameras. This payload was launched on May 11, 2016 on a 200 g balloon and recovered after a 65 min flight. All launch, tracking and recovery operations were conducted by the students, with minimal help from teachers and staff. After the successful completion of their flight students analyzed their data in the classroom and wrote about their experience in their journals.

We found this project to be a valuable, exciting and engaging open-ended investigation for third graders. We discuss the unique challenges of conducting a balloon flight with such an early grade level, including how to integrate it into the curriculum while supporting instructional shifts called for by the Next Generation Science Standards, how to engage students at a wide range of developmental levels in team-based activities, and how to overcome logistical challenges.

 

High-Altitude Ballooning in 3rd Grade

In this poster presentation we report on a high altitude balloon project conducted with third-graders from Gower West Elementary School in Willowbrook, IL in spring 2016. In the weeks before the launch students used a vacuum jar to investigate the effects of pressure changes on different objects, substances and sounds in the classroom and conducted pressure, temperature and wind measurements inside and outside of their school using Vernier probeware. To learn how to use the balloon tracking equipment and how to fill a balloon and prepare it for launch, students simulated a flight with a tethered balloon outside of their school.

After these preliminary activities the students designed and built several experiments with everyday objects such as a latex glove, a party balloon, a plastic soda bottle, a flower, a glue stick and bubble wrap, along with Vernier sensors and GoPro cameras. This payload was launched on May 11, 2016 on a 200 g balloon and recovered after a 65 min flight. All launch, tracking and recovery operations were conducted by the students, with minimal help from teachers and staff. After the successful completion of their flight students analyzed their data in the classroom and wrote about their experience in their journals.

We found this project to be a valuable, exciting and engaging open-ended investigation for third graders. We discuss the unique challenges of conducting a balloon flight with such an early grade level, including how to integrate it into the curriculum while supporting instructional shifts called for by the Next Generation Science Standards, how to engage students at a wide range of developmental levels in team-based activities, and how to overcome logistical challenges.