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Prairie Queen Elementary students build balloon floats for Thanksgiving Day parade

balloons over broadway activity

Prairie Queen Elementary 5th graders had a chance to participate in a "design thinking" project where they built balloons to fly in their own version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The activity coincided with the book they read called Balloons Over Broadway, which is the story of the puppeteer of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

The goal of the project was for students to learn everything they could about an idea, ask questions about how they would pull off their project, and then implement their plan.

The students had to pretend that the parade ran out of balloons, so they had to make new ones. The students spent two days designing and building. On the third day, they filmed their balloons with an iPad in front of a green screen and replaced the green background with a Times Square background.

Teacher Stacey Muller said the planning step may have been the hardest one for her students.

"They want to get in and do. After reading the book, if they could have truly just taken the balloons and gone, they would have!"

Muller explained slowing the students down and having them plan and have to defend their idea and why it should work was very effective.

After the first day of designing and building, the students participated in a reflection activity to write down what worked and what didn't, so they would know how to move forward the next day.

Some groups experienced many set backs with their balloon projects. 

"I learned hot glue would pop the balloons," said 5th grade student Addison Kousgaard.

Kousgaard was part of a group that initially had a complex balloon float built, but ended up with a small pig float after a series of mishaps.

"It was really big," Lauren Vanhessche explained.

"We decided to put a baby pig on top, but the next day we came back and the baby pig started to deflate."

Vanhessche's group pulled the deflated baby pig balloon off of the float, but when the tape was ripped off of the balloon, the head of the larger balloon pig popped. The group thought they could still salvage the project, but then the body of their balloon pig popped. 

"Once the head and the body popped, all of our confidence almost dropped, so we had to gain confidence and say, 'it's okay, we can make another one," Coen Hoevet said.

The group rebuilt their project despite all of the disappointment.

Muller describes watching her students perservere as powerful.

"It was nice to see them sticking with it," she said.

Watch their parade video here:

 Watch the students explain their experience with the project: