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Students learn about simple machines with a twist
Sue Scott

Balloonology is a new subject being taught in Hannah McElroy’s class at Burnett Creek Elementary School. Balloonology, which teaches twisting techniques and how to design large balloon sculptures, is part of a unit that was funded through a grant from Evonik Tippecanoe Laboratories.

McElroy says her third grade high ability class created simple machines and balloon animals: “The first week consisted of students researching and taking notes with the nonfiction books about simple machines. Next, students spent a week making the simple machines that they had been reading about. They spent a week creating these simple machines using the different simple machine kits. Next, the students spent a week researching balloonology by reading the non-fiction books and taking notes.”

Pretty Funny Balloons is an Indianapolis-based company that specializes in massive balloon sculptures. During a virtual visit with the class, owner Brian Getz showed students basic twisting techniques and challenged them to create a large, free-standing balloon tower.

“Pretty Funny Balloons was cool because they showed us how to make the balloon dogs over Google Meet and we got to make them,” says student Brenden Boyer. “I also liked seeing the sculptures they made, like the dragonfly, because it was huge!”

“I learned a lot of things about both simple machines and balloonology,'' adds student Laura Munguia-Lapre. “Pretty Funny Balloons taught me how much geometry and math they had to use on a daily basis.”

McElroy says the students also practiced many other skills including how to research, take notes, work as a team and solve problems.

“The students have responded really well to the project as a whole,” says McElroy. “Their favorite parts have included building the simple machines using the kits and researching balloonology. This unit has definitely sparked interest for a lot of them to think about engineering as a potential career option.”

Students working on simple machine kits
Two boys design a simple machine
Two girls work together on a simple machine design