Students flying high

MANY people expected an April Fool’s joke, but instead the local community around Tolosa Street got the chance to watch Dominic College students launch a full-size hot air balloon.

Dominic College principal Beth Gilligan said the launch on 1 April was the culmination of the year five science unit that focused on states of matter and properties of gases.

“The balloon was brought to us through the innovative work of our year five teachers, Barbara Moulton and Michelle O’Grady, and our director of science K-10 Jane Myers,” she said.

“Year five students had designed and tested their own prototype mini hot air balloons in class and then got to see and experience the real thing – observing how ignited helium is used to keep the balloon in flight.”

Balloon owner and chief pilot Nick Brau used students and staff as helpers with the assembly and inflation of the balloon.

He was also able to answer many of the students’ questions, and provided tips and advice for improvements to their own hot air balloon prototypes.

Year five teacher Barbara Moulton noted the first hot air balloon demonstration flights in 1783 by French brothers Joseph Michel and Etienne Jacques Montgolfier incorporated a sheep, a rooster and a duck placed in the basket.

“The trio completed the eight-minute flight safely opening up the transportation for humans,” she said.

“However, rather than using our school chickens and goats, we went straight for the students.”

Mrs Moulton said the students had the opportunity to go inside the balloon as it was being inflated.

Students then got the chance to ride in the basket in small groups as the balloon floated upwards while remaining securely tethered.

“Year five students learned much, from the basic physics of flight, how the balloon is able to fly and be controlled to the materials and equipment used in this process,” Mrs Moulton said.

“The adults were just as excited by the launch as the students.”

Ms Gilligan explained that science at Dominic College was developed as a K-10 program, with K-6 students accessing facilities, resources and expertise normally confined to the domain of secondary schools.

“The transition from upper primary science into secondary science is very smooth,” she said.

“Students are used to working in the laboratories and the college’s dedicated STEM space and their science skills are well developed as a result of the K-10 program.”

Caption: Dominic College students enjoyed the unique experience of a hot air balloon launch on the college’s oval.