WESTFIELD — CUT THE ROPE! CUT THE ROPE! CUT THE ROPE!
Students at Westfield Elementary were not shy about their desire to see their principal and assistant principal fly away in a hot air balloon Thursday morning. They even had a little encouragement from some of the teachers.
However, they assured Principal Tracey Lewis afterwards that it was just in good fun.
Librarian Sabrina Wilmoth was responsible for arranging a visit from the RE/MAX hot air balloon along with Pilot Tom Lattin. Lattin inflated the balloon and took some of the staff members up for a quick look around as the students looked on from the black top located behind the school.
The balloon was used as a kick-off for this year’s Reading Is FUNdamental program used by the school system. The national theme for libraries this year is “Reading Takes You Places” while the Scholastic book fair theme is “Destination Reading.” The goal of the school is to incorporate those themes into reading both in the library and in the classroom.
“Sabrina Wilmoth is always trying to come up with ideas to get kids excited about reading,” said Lewis. “This is an awesome way to get the kids pumped up. It’s something they will never forget.”
Wilmoth got the idea for the hot air balloon from “UP,” the newest Disney/Pixar movie that premiered over the summer. She plans to help teachers tie reading into the classroom, particularly in geography by focusing on destinations. Maps of each of the continents has been attached to a wall at the school. As classes learn about the countries, they get to put a flag on each country they “visit.”
She hopes to continue the hot air balloon in November with a cold inflate of the hot air balloon housed at Rag Apple Lassie Vineyards. With a cold inflate, the students can run around inside the balloon as it lies inflated on the ground as the reading incentive reward.
The students were excited to see the balloon inflated and deflated as well as seeing some of their teachers head up for a ride, with the balloon safely tethered to the ground. For Dakota Eads, fifth grader, the visit from the balloon was an exciting birthday present. He even got to help put the balloon back in its bag at the end of the demonstration.
“I want to ride in it,” he said. “It’s heavy but it was fun.”
Some students have seen hot air balloons on television or from a distance before, but they were excited to get so close to it.
“I thought it was a great experience. I’ve seen lots of them before but never from this close,” said Russell Varner, fifth grader.
“Today was a really great day. I’ve seen them on the ground before but not in the air and not so close,” said Tyler Semones. “Putting it up was fun.”
After the demonstration, Lattin spoke to the students about the history of the hot air balloon as one of the first military aircrafts as well as a test aircraft for space suits for NASA.
“It’s an unsung piece of history,” he said.
He also talked to the students about the science behind the hot air balloon, what causes it to float and how temperature and wind speed can affect it. He explained the amount of planning that has to go into a flight because hot air balloons do not go to specific destinations like airplanes.
He passed around a swatch of the material used to make hot air balloons so students could feel it and also taught them how to make their own balloon with a trash bag and hot air.
Reading Is FUNdamental is a program used to help excite students about reading by providing them with different experiences, rewards for reading books outside the classroom and even free books on occasion.
“If you learn how to read, you can do anything else you want to do. You never know what you’ll be able to do,” said Lewis.
Contact Morgan Wall at email@example.com or 719-1929.