House Creek students learn STEM lesson through cherished holiday tradition

 In Copperas Cove

The annual Macy’s Day Parade did not happen in its traditional sense before thousands of spectators this year. But, House Creek Elementary fourth graders got first-hand experience of what it is like to be one of the hundreds of volunteers that have historically anchored the balloons to keep them from floating away.  

Teachers used the cross-curricular activity to teach students about the hidden strength or energy that moves an object and how these forces make objects change their motion or movement. The STEM lesson integrated reading, research, science, technology, engineering, and math. Students were encouraged to use their imaginations and create a unique balloon that they would like to see in the parade.

House Creek Elementary fourth grader Zoie Gunderson shows off the dog balloon float that she created during the STEM project to learn about force and motion in a real-world application.

“We started with an Interactive read aloud over the book Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet. This story discusses the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade,” teacher Vanessa Blomquist said. “Students then participated in a STEM activity to create their own Macy’s Thanksgiving balloon. After designing their balloons, students blew up the balloons and made balloon rockets on strings. Students used this activity to demonstrate and discuss force and motion.”

One of the challenges that the students had was blowing up the balloons too much and popping them. Students had to make sure that they had just enough air in their balloon to provide enough energy to make the balloon travel across the string.  

“Using balloons to show force and motion was fun,” fourth grader Aubrianna Hentkowski said. “I learned that if you have a lot of energy, the balloon will go. If you do not have enough, it will just stop.”

Students were able to make a connection to the real world as they worked in teams to help each other with their balloons that were functioning as floats for the assignment.   

House Creek Elementary fourth graders Makayla Sanford, Stacia Drayton, Charlotte Barrera and Ladarius Smith show off the balloons they designed and for which the built balloon rockets on strings to replicate the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and learn about force and motion in a real-world application.

“The assignment even evolved into discussions among the students about their family traditions around the holidays and they even used their academic vocabulary to have conversations about force and motion while making balloon rockets.” 

Although millions of spectators were not allowed to line the streets to watch the Macy’s Day Parade this year, an estimated 50 million television viewers tuned in to enjoy everything from the performing groups to Broadway show tunes, floats and the celebrated giant character balloons. House Creek students now know that the parade is a masterpiece of planning, organization, creativity, and STEM.