Reflection: Complex Tasks Hot Air Balloons - Section 2: Activity


Once I give students the challenge, I don't really offer much assistance. It is important that students figure out how what works and what doesn't through trial and error, incorporating discussion with peers and research as desired.  I prompt with questions to get them thinking and I intervene when frustration levels get too high, but otherwise I leave them to it.

I have some tips/information that will help you choose how to best guide your students:

  • I have found that the lighter the hot air balloon, the better; most students use way too much hot glue (I have never had a successful balloon that used hot glue).  
  • Two birthday candles cut in half to make 4 small candles seems to work best.  
  • 13 gallon 8 µm thickness bags work best for the balloon. Bags that are not cut or altered work best as they collect more warm air.  
  • The more temperature difference between the inside of the balloon and the outside of the balloon, the better the balloon performs (early morning balloons often fly higher than later in the day).  

  Allow Students To Struggle
  Complex Tasks: Allow Students To Struggle
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Hot Air Balloons

Unit 9: End It With Engineering
Lesson 4 of 6

Objective: SWBAT use provided materials to construct a hot air balloon that lifts off the ground.

Big Idea: Students use the design process to create a hot air balloon that operates using candle power.

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