So, I’m obsessed with the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. My husband and I went in October (book yourself a ticket for next year ASAP), and absolutely loved it- the festival, and New Mexico in general. We also went to Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keeffe visited and painted (and eventually bought a home near), so stay tuned for a few O’Keeffe-inspired lessons too. Here is a paper mache hot air balloon lesson, complete with pics from our trip to show your students! I can’t figure out how to upload a video I created, so contact me through my site if you’d like me to send it to you (it shows the balloons in action, being inflated, and landing).
bowl, water, flour, balloon, tempera paint, (I love these, especially if you can find the neon colors!), newspaper or recycled copy paper, string, berry basket (I bought these), OPTIONAL–> masking tape, cup, fishing wire, brad
- mix flour and water in a bowl- I have never measured this and it has always worked (sorry!), but it’s aboouut 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/2 cup of water
- cut papers into about one inch strips (can be any length, for little hands I wouldn’t do larger than 12 inches)
- blow up balloon as big as you want! and if you need to keep it still and from rolling, tape it to a disposable (or not) cup or bowl as a stand
- dip a strip into the mixture, scoot extra mixture down off of strip so that it drips back into bowl, and drape the wet strip onto the balloon
- repeat until the whole balloon is covered (maybe even twice, definitely some parts overlapping)
- let it dry! should take about 8 hours or overnight
- paint, and let that dry
- attach the basket – I wrapped the string around masking tape, taped that inside the ballon, then covered the masking tape with duct tape and tied the loose end to the basket
- if you want to hang them from the ceiling, you can push a brad through the top and use fishing wire (tied around the brad) so it looks like it’s floating
*Neon tempera paints make this really cute. You can talk with the children about different designs and patterns ahead of time, using my pictures (scroll down) as inspiration. Also, when I used newspaper I actually painted them with a coat of white chalk paint so the temperas would have a fresh bright base. With the white recycled copy paper, there was no need so that saved some time and paint.
The fiesta lasts a whole week and starts each day with “Dawn Patrol,” where the first balloons take off before sunrise and they GLOW. It’s … so beautiful.
My kids loved seeing the different kinds of balloons, as well as learning about the gondolas (the baskets hanging from each balloon). There is so much you could do with this lesson- the gondolas are hand-woven with wicker so you could also incorporate weaving.
It was wild watching so many trucks just drive through the open field (which was full of festival-goers), unload, ask people to scoot back, and inflate their balloons! Balloon Fiesta forever!