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Students learn from balloonist teacher's hobby

Students learn from balloonist teacher's hobby

Up, up and away. Well, actually the hot air balloon Bernard Sullivan inflated only lifted about 25 f

Up, up and away.

Well, actually the hot air balloon Bernard Sullivan inflated only lifted about 25 feet off the ground but it was enough to generate cheers and applause from students Tuesday morning at Yates Arts in Education Magnet School.

Sullivan, a student teacher at the school, inflated the 60-foot tall and 50-foot wide balloon on the lawn of the school. First, he used a fan to blow cold air into the balloon. Then, he used propane burners to heat the air. As the balloon expanded in size, its multiple colors came into view. Initially purple and black could be seen, then green, red, orange and yellow.

“Wow,” the students yelled.

“It’s going up, it’s going up,” shouted one as the balloon slowly rose.

“It’s big. It’s huge,” said 9-year-old fourth-grader Kyle Olszewski.

Fourth-grader Olijajwuan Sheppard, 10, explained how the burners are ignited. “You press a button and the fire goes up in the air,” he said.

For the last two weeks, Sullivan has been explaining how the balloon works to the youngsters. First, it is filled with cold air. Then, the burners warm the air. Hot air rises and causes the balloon to stand up. When it reaches a point called equilibrium, the balloon is perfectly balanced. Then, Sullivan gives it a little more air to make it go up.

After a couple minutes in the air, he pulled a metal handle inside the basket that opens up a vent, releasing heat and causing the balloon to deflate.

“It was cool,” said 9-year-old Iaisa Belle, another fourth-grader.

“They’ll never forget this,” said Principal Valarie Scott.

Scott said Sullivan had done this with another school where he had student-taught. Yates School decided to make it a unit. In addition to learning about the science behind the balloon, one of the fifth-grade classes did a time line of balloon history, an art class did a project on balloons and another teacher showed a video about her experience in a hot air balloon.

“It’s not just about the balloon. It has to be educational,” Scott said. “For the kids to actually see something, to visualize what they’ve been talking about in the classroom takes it to the next step.”

Sullivan, a senior at SUNY Cortland, has been ballooning since he was a child. He used a balloon from his friend Jonathon Blackburn, who owns and operates Otto’s Balloon Flights.

Sullivan said this fits in with the science lesson he has been doing on density and buoyancy. Some of these students may have never been up close to a hot air balloon.

He said his internship is giving him skills in classroom management.

“It’s been a challenge; it’s been enjoyable,” he said.

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