A Visit to the Lab

Hovering balloons in the museum’s lab space beckoned our transportation small group to come for a visit.   We wondered if the children would make any connections between the hot air balloons and the helium balloons.  So, on Wednesday of this week, our transportation group, along with Rachael, headed towards the museum entrance.

Prior to entering the museum, the group sat on the museum steps to refresh our thinking around hot air balloons.  We remembered back to Sylvie’s original question…How do hot air balloons fly? We recalled that Henry’s mom and dad have been in a hot air balloon and had helped us answer some questions.  Henry reminded us that hot air balloons fly because of wind and fire. Quinn thought it had something to do with “the giant rope hanging down to the ground that is pulled”.

“Are we coming here to see that?”-QUINN (referring to the elevator that we could see from the outside of the building)

“The elevator leads you up all the way close to the roof.”-HENRY

“No, it leads you to the basement.”-QUINN

“No, it’s really up high…If it goes down, then it leads you to the basement.”-HENRY


So, thinking about an elevator, does an elevator go up the same way a hot air balloon goes up?

“No, it needs electricity.”-HENRY

What does the hot air balloon need to go up?

“Wind…and fire.”-HENRY

“Wind makes it blow.  Blow in the air to go.  I do not know how high it goes.  How high does it go?”-HENRY

Upon our arrival in the Lab, the children had some free time to play with the balloons, as well as the other materials provided for their use in the lab.  Throughout this play, the children began to wonder about the balloons.  

What makes the balloons float and fly around?

“Air!”-HENRY and QUINN

We wondered if we filled our cheeks up with air, if we would float.  We tried this, but nothing happened.

“Too heavy!  Balloons are not that heavy.”-QUINN

As luck would have it, Emily Silet found us in the Lab and offered to take us down to the cave to fill up new balloons.  The children were delighted to join her on this adventure. Once in the cave, Emily showed us the helium tank and explained how it worked.

“Can we try doing this?”-MADELINE P.R.

“Is it loud?”-QUINN

Emily explained that it’s not very loud, but that it did make a popping sound similar to the sound of a balloon popping. She also told the children that, while they couldn’t help put the helium in, they could help her put the air in afterwards.


“We’ll tell you when to stop.”-SYLVIE

“I’m going to close my ears.”-QUINN

Emily began filling the balloons with helium, testing them out to see how they reacted when released in the air.  She explained that she wanted the balloons to hover in the air a little bit. She didn’t want it to go too far up or too far down.  When the balloon fell to the floor upon testing, she gave it a little “titch” more helium. When it hovered above the ground a little bit, it was ready.  Then she gave one balloon to each child to hold tightly. They understood that this was an important responsibility. The children helped with the testing of each balloon.

“No”-ALL (when the balloon sunk to the floor)

“Ahhh”-ALL (when the balloon hovered above the floor)

“Everybody needs one!”-SYLVIE

Afterwards, we all walked back up to the Lab to add the air to each balloon with an air pump.

“Is it loud?”-QUINN

Emily explained that it was a little louder than the helium tank, but not too much. Once we settled back into the lab, Emily let each child help her use the air pump to fill the balloons the rest of the way up.  

“Watch mine hover!  See it hovers!”-QUINN