The Hot Air Balloon Book
by Clive Catterall

Price at time of review: $14.95
240 pp.
Chicago Review Press
Chicago, IL
ISBN: 9781613740965

Grade Level: 4-12

Reviewed by Adah Stock
Master Teacher and a Science Education Consultant

There is a proverb attributed to Confucius that says “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” This is what comes to my mind when I flip through this book. As a seasoned classroom educator I understand the importance of doing hands–on activities so that all students can learn and apply science concepts. But adding fun to the experience can only bring lasting, positive results.

This volume contains illustrated, step–by–step instructions to build eight different hot air balloons that can be made inexpensively in any situation with relatively easily acquired materials. Even the names of the different models evoke fun, such as the ones called the ‘Trash Bag Sausage’ or the ‘UFO Balloon.’ This volume does not just contain simple, each to follow instructions on the construction of these models; there is a chapter about balloon history from different countries, for different purposes, and at different times in history. Another chapter is devoted to launching the models which includes information about safety, launch site, weather, and equipment. This is the only chapter with black and white photos, all the rest have line drawings. There is a section within the second chapter that explains the science behind why air balloons rise and fall.

The next eight chapters are devoted to each of the models; some require external heat sources and some are solar powered. The last chapter is devoted to troubleshooting and other tips that make the models successful adventures for adults and children. People have looked up to skies to follow the flights of Chinese lanterns, hot air balloons, and weather balloons. Now, this book can add a new dimension with an interdisciplinary approach to learning by doing.

The science of flight, the history of balloons, the math of measurement, the art of decorating them, and the ability to write about what was done and what was learned in the process, makes this book an opportunity to have a fun, learning experience that can be applied to students in classrooms, after–school events, and/or parent–student informal learning. Having made a tissue paper balloon many years ago and watching it launch is a memory I look back at fondly. This book can make science and learning come alive.

Review posted on 9/17/2013

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