Bailey Zabel, left, and Maritza Weidel watch as their tissue-paper balloon climbs high into the air above Steamboat Springs Middle School on Monday morning. The students launched tissue-paper balloons as part of a science project to teach them about how hot air rises.

Photo by John F. Russell

Bailey Zabel, left, and Maritza Weidel watch as their tissue-paper balloon climbs high into the air above Steamboat Springs Middle School on Monday morning. The students launched tissue-paper balloons as part of a science project to teach them about how hot air rises.

Steamboat 6th-graders fly hot air balloons for science project

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Maritza Weidel watchers her balloon climb high into the air above Steamboat Springs Middle School Monday morning. The students launched tissue paper balloon as part of a science project to teach the students about how hot air rises.

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Sixth grade teacher Tracy Bye lets Jenna Kramer's balloon rise into the air Monday morning outside the Steamboat Springs Middle School. The sixth grade students launched the tissue-paper balloons as part of a science project to teach the students about how hot air rises.

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Sixth graders, including Jordan Gorr, center, release a tissue-paper balloon Monday morning in the parking lot in front of the Steamboat Springs Middle School. The launch was part of a science project to teach the students about how hot air rises.

— The fun almost ended quickly for Reed Wipperfurth and Kane Park.

The Steamboat Springs Middle School sixth-graders’ hot air balloon soared high in the air in the direction of the school and appeared to touch down on the roof. But it didn’t.

“It landed right in front of the school,” Reed said, his excitement obvious with about an hour to continue sending their tissue-paper balloon skyward. “It’s fun to see how high they go.”

They were participating in a project to demonstrate the science of convection: how hot air rises, science teacher Rebecca Beacham-Fulk said. She said the nearly 170 sixth-graders worked for a week to craft their hot air balloons in preparation to fly them.

Beacham-Fulk said the project, in its eighth year, always is one of the students’ favorites.

“It’s just integrating science with a hands-on activity,” she said. “They love anything hands-on.”

The annual balloon release takes place on the school’s football field, but Monday’s snowy weather kept the students confined to the parking lot.

Teachers and parent volunteers monitored four grills, which had sheet metal cones on top of them to funnel the hot air into the balloons. After the balloons were filled with air, they took off, and their creators chased after them.

The balloon created by Cole Gibbs and Anna Skubiz flew almost to the entrance of Strawberry Park Elementary School.

“It’s awesome,” Cole said. “It went so high.”

Anna said their balloon almost landed on a car.

“It almost went across the parking lot,” she said. “It went very far. I’m really proud of it.”

The students, in groups of two, glued together variations of colored tissue paper. Many named their hot air balloons.

Jenna Kramer and Markella Kyprios called their balloon “Wild Colors” to describe the giraffe-patterned yellow, brown and blue tissue paper.

Their balloon already had been flown three times.

“I think it’s fun to see how balloons work,” Jenna said. “I just think it’s neat.”

Danielle Cooke and Lauren Schneegas didn’t have as much luck on their first flight because of a hole in the side of their balloon, “Rainbow.”

“It went up, but it came back down pretty fast,” Lauren said.

The balloon made by Flor Miranda and Ellie Mordang was the day’s first casualty. Their hot air balloon caught fire, and bits of smoldering tissue paper floated down toward the concrete.

“We were blowing it up, and it just caught fire,” Flor said. “We started cracking up, then we were sad.”

Fortunately, it was the fourth time their balloon had flown into the air.

Science teacher Matt Tred­way, who started the project, estimated the sixth-graders have flown more than 500 balloons in the past eight years. Tredway said he loves to see what the students create and their reactions to their balloons soaring above the school.

“It’s been kind of a great culmination to an otherwise boring science,” he said. “You put a little color and flame to it, and it’s a little more fun.”

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