Auburn Middle School seventh-graders Melani Fournier, left, and Brooklynn Hamilton watch a classmate’s project float into the morning sky as they wait their turn to launch their balloons. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Under a bright blue sky and calm winds, more than 25 hot air balloons made by students from Auburn Middle School’s Team Whitecap began rising into the air Wednesday morning.

Several dozen students and teachers gathered in the school parking lot for the team-building and educational activity.

Wearing heavy gloves, teachers held the balloons one at a time above a stovepipe over a propane burner to fill the envelopes with hot air before students released the balloons they were holding down with a long pole. While some only rose only a few feet, many rose several hundred feet and drifted toward woods. Several became entangled in the branches.  

Students spent nearly three weeks constructing the 10-foot-high tissue paper balloons as part of a team-building project tied to science, math, social studies and tech-engineering standards.

Each balloon was unique; many students chose to cut affix photos of themselves to the balloon’s basket.  


Everyone appeared to have fun. Many learned to work with other students on a project that felt more like playtime than schoolwork.  

AMS seventh-grade students reach for a balloon as it drifts back to the ground.  (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Auburn Middle School Technology teacher Claudette Poulin, right, holds the envelope of a balloon made by seventh-grade student Jenna Kimball, left, behind the school Wednesday morning. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Auburn Middle School seventh-grader Andrew Casares chases his balloon as it drifts to the ground. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Auburn Middle School seventh-grader Melani Fournier carries her balloon back to the parking lot where it was launched behind the Auburn school Wednesday morning. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Another balloon is launched. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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