Resources for Teachers

Balloon Related Projects

We have compiled a teachers manual in PDF format.

Manual – part 1
Manual – part 2

We have collected a variety of projects that illustrate concepts relevant to hot-air ballooning. Got any good ideas we haven’t heard? Send them to us and we’ll post them (and give you credit here on our site!)

Research Project
Discussion Questions
Air Pressure Experiment
Weather Vane Project
Paper Mache Balloons
Ballooning Song
Word Game
Creative Writing
Advertising Campaign

Research Project

Using the resource list, contact all of the manufacturers and the BFA. Collect information from these sources and the library regarding hot-air balloons.

Draw up a price comparison list.

What balloon make do you think you would ultimately buy? Why? Consider costs, design features, popularity, safety. Detail other factors that influence your decision.

What would your balloon look like?

Would you like to pursue a career as a hot-air balloon pilot? Would you compete and/or sell rides, or seek out a commercial contract? How would you decide this?

Why would you pilot balloons instead of airplanes, helicoptors or gliders? Maybe you would earn several ratings so you could fly these other aircraft also! Maybe you would decide to crew for a pilot instead of actually learning to fly?

Contact a local hot-air balloon pilot and interview him/her about the above questions. How did he or she make their decisions? (top)

Discussion Questions

What makes a hot-air balloon float? What makes a helium balloon float?
(Both are lighter than air)

When was the first hot-air balloon built?
(1783 in France)

How high can balloons go?
(All the way to 24,000′ or higher, but typical flights range from treetop height to 3-4000′)

How do you steer a hot air balloon?
(You can’t, really. Since the balloon goes where the wind goes, the pilot can only “steer” by finding different wind currents at different altitudes)

Are hot-air balloons safe?
(Any flight involves some risk. Balloons are a safe form of flight, and the low rate of ballooning accidents prove this. Many FAA regulations are in place to increase safety, and a responsible pilot exercising good judgment and following the regulations will rarely encounter a situation that cannot be managed safely)

What weather conditions are best for hot-air balloon flight?
(Calm surface winds, no precipitation and clear skies are ideal)

Where are the best places to fly hot-air balloons?
(Away from city congestion and powerlines, away from large bodies of water, and near open spaces for landing sites)

How far does a balloon fly?
(It depends on the speed of the wind. 5-10 miles per hour of flight is about average. Higher winds can often be found at higher altitudes, enabling the pilot to fly further)

How much does a balloon cost?
(Typical prices are in the $10-30,000 range. Used balloons can be less, special shapes considerably more, some well over $100.000)

A balloon flight can be a beautiful adventure. But why can’t balloons be used for daily transportation?
Possible answers include wind direction changes, weather, speed of flight, cost of flight, safety concerns such as launch and landing spots, powerlines, legalities, social impact and public reaction, times of day that balloons fly, size and weight of balloon, etc. (top)

Air Pressure Experiment

Explore Low and High pressure air masses

Relatively speaking, air which is moving exerts low pressure, and air that is still exerts high pressure. This was discovered in the late 1700’s by a scientist named Daniel Bernoulli. And it is because of this discovery that we can make wings that create lift and make an airplane fly. As the wing slices through the air, the air molecules moving over the top of the wing must make it to the other side at the same time as the molecules under the wing. Because the wind is curved on top, those molecules have further to go and must move faster. The combination of low pressure on top and high pressure below work together to create an upward push called “lift”.

Try this experiment to illustrate this concept:

Materials List:

  • 2 toy balloons, equally inflated
  • 2 strings, about 1 foot long each

 Tie the strings one to each balloon. Hang or hold the balloons about 1 inch apart. Have another student blow gently between the two balloons.

The balloons will be “pushed” together. Remember the pressure will be lower between the two balloons while you are blowing air through (because moving air has less pressure) The pressure on the sides of the balloons is higher, because that air is moving.

What happens when:

  1. You blow even harder between the two balloons?
  2. You blow the balloons from the side?
  3. You stop blowing altogether?

Think about how this concept applies to weather systems. Would you think that an area of low pressure in a weather report would tend to be more windy or more calm? What about an approaching high pressure system?(top)

Weather Vane Project

Hot air balloon pilots do not have a steering wheel or any other mechanical means of steering their balloons. Sometimes, though, the wind at several thousand feet above the ground (winds aloft) will be going a different direction than that which is blowing over the surface. With these changes of direction, the pilot is able to do some “navigation” by controlling to some extent where the balloon will fly and where it will land. Pilots always get a weather and winds forecast before every flight so that they will have an indication of the direction and speed the balloon will travel once launched. Remember though, it’s mostly up to Mother Nature!

One way of determining which way the wind is blowing is to build a weather vane.

Materials List:

  • Drinking straws
  • Straight pins
  • Pencils with eraser
  • Feathers about 4 inches in length
  1. Put a pin through the middle of a straw.
  2. Push the pin down into the pencil eraser. Don’t put too much downward pressure on the straw (it has to be free to move)
  3. Push the feather into one end of the straw far enough so that it stays.
  4. Take your weather vane outside and test it in the wind at different times. Did you notice any changes of direction during different times of day, or during the week? Do you think these changes are related to weather systems?


Chart the winds observed outside your window for a week. Use the Beaufort (developed 1806) Wind Scale:

#0 Calm Smoke rises vertically, flags hang still 0 MPH
#1 Light Air Smoke drifts slowly, flag moves 2-3 MPH
#2 Slight Breeze Leaves rustle, weather vane moves 4-7 MPH
#3 Gentle Breeze Twigs move, flags extended 8-12 MPH
#4 Moderate Breeze Branches move, dust and paper rise 13-18 MPH
#5 Strong breeze Large branches sway, wires whistle 25-31 MPH
#6 Strong gale Branches break, roofs damages 47-54 MPH

When is it typically the windiest during the day?
What do you think would cause this?
What is the best time of day to fly hot air balloons?
What would be the best speed of wind to fly in? Why?(top)

Paper Mache Hot-Air Balloons Project

Materials List:

  • Strips of newspaper
  • White glue diluted in wate
  • A toy balloon for each student
  • paints
  • String/Yarn
  • The base of a milk carton for each student

Dip strips of newpapers into diluted glue and paste onto an inflated balloon. While papering the top of the balloon, include a few inches of a long piece of string from which to hang the balloon after it dries. Make sure the piece is firmly anchored and glued in with the newspaper strips.

Allow the balloon to dry, then paint designs

Paste construction or contact paper on the sides of the milk carton base

Tie the gondola (milk carton) on with 4 pieces of string after punching small holes (use holepunch) in the mouth of the balloon and sides of carton

Hang up for display! (top)

Ballooning Song

(sing to the tune of Skip to My Lou)

Rise, Rise, Lighter than Air!
Rise, Rise, Lighter than Air!
Rise, Rise, Lighter than Air!
Come Let’s Go Ballooning!

Float, Float, Float Through the Sky!
Float, Float, Float Through the Sky!
Float, Float, Float Through the Sky!
Come Let’s Go Ballooning!

Light the Burner, Let’s go Higher!
Light the Burner, Let’s go Higher!
Light the Burner, Let’s go Higher!
Come Let’s Go Ballooning!

Pull the Ripcord Ready to Land!
Pull the Ripcord Ready to Land!
Pull the Ripcord Ready to Land!
Come Let’s Go Ballooning! (top)

Word Game

The words listed below should be considered in an aeronautical context, and the definitions as well.

Wacky Words

  1. Give each student 5 slips of paper and a pencil
  2. From the list below, write a word on the board
  3. Each student invents a definition that he/she believes will convince the other players that he/she is right.
  4. Write both the word and the definition on a slip of paper
  5. The teacher writes the correct definition on a slip of paper
  6. The slips are collected and shuffled
  7. After reading each definition, have students vote on which definition they think is correct
  8. The correct definition is revealed by the teacher

1 point for each vote a definition receives
2 points for each player who chooses a correct definition
3 points for each student who submits the correct definition

Word List:

variometer apex convection
ceiling dew point altimeter
thermal airworthiness certificate AGL
nautical mile radiation Montgolfiere
conduction dirigible deflation port
venturi gondola chase vehicle
FAA touch and go envelope
navigate burner splash and dash
BTU deflation port propane


Creative Writing Exercise

Compose a shrt story about an imaginary balloon trip you take. Base it on one or two concepts you have learned about with respect to hot-air balloons (weather, licensing, history, navigation, terrain, rallies, competition, laws, etc). If you need to, research more information about your chosen concepts at the library (or use the resource list) to give your story depth and focus. (top)

Pick a product that you would like to see represented by a balloon. What type of balloon would you select? Design the balloon shape (remember, some pilot has to fly the thing!) Maybe make up an appropriate slogan, and list the places where you want to have this balloon fly, and explain why you chose these places. What people (market) would you want to reach? (top)