Oh, You’re Full of Hot Air
Did you know, the first free flight in a hot air balloon occurred in 1783? Learn about that first flight, take a virtual visit to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, learn the science of why hot air balloons work, and even build your own miniature hot air balloon. Enjoy the adventure!

Today’s Activities


First, take a virtual visit to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Be sure to click forward to see the colorful array of balloons. 


  • If you have a balloon and a plastic 2L bottle (or a 500ml plastic water bottle) try these phenomena.

Discuss or write: 

  • Why do you think this happens?
  • What do you notice?  What do you wonder? What does this remind you of?

Draw a diagram explaining how this phenomena occurred.  Be sure to include the visible as well as the invisible (molecules).  Label your science diagram as completely as possible.  Keep your diagram because you may want to revise it as you learn more about the density of air. 


Explore the science behind why the balloon expanded and contracted by choosing a few of these resources.  This will also help you understand how this activity helps us explain the science behind hot air balloons. 

A more thorough reading of How Hot Air Balloons Work from How Stuff Works. 

Practice Flying your own hot air balloon with this BrainPOP simulation. 

STEM in 30 Video about Hot Air Balloons and Air Pressure


Take a look at your original diagram explaining the phenomena of the balloon expanding when the bottle was in warm water and contracting when the bottle was in ice water. 

Now that you have done some reading and watched some videos, improve your diagram by adding details and labeling more accurately. 

Write a scientific explanation using the Claim Evidence Reasoning format.  Make a copy of this CER writing template here.   

Reminder: What are the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning?


Make your own hot air balloon.  

Using science:  Safety Warning!  Do this only with your parent’s permission and in a place that is safe for candles to burn.  

Use the engineering design process to build your own miniature hot air balloon.  Record your attempts in video or pictures like these students did.  Explain how you made each iteration of your balloon better.  


Use a toaster as your heat source instead of candles.  Science Buddies Up, Up, and Away. 


Make your own paper mache’ hot air balloon. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world in a hot air balloon, where would you go?  Draw or paint a picture of your adventure.  


On November 21, 1783 the first free flight carrying a human occurred in Paris, France in a hot air balloon made of paper and silk made by the Montgolfier brothers. 

Learn more about the History of Ballooning from the National Balloon Museum, Iowa. 

The movie:

The Book: 

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