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Students send up their own balloons
The second day of the 19th Annual Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival went off without a hitch Saturday.
The day's events began early in the morning, and culminated with a student tissue balloon launch and the traditional evening balloon glow at Desert Sun Stadium.
"This is probably the best balloon morning in I couldn't tell you how long," said Nate Schug, Caballeros De Yuma chairman of the festival.
"It was just perfect, because you know normally if you have too much wind, the balloons go up and out right away, but this morning the wind was so light that, my gosh, the balloons went up and they just hung. A balloon would go up and 30 minutes later you could still see it. It was great, we had all 28 of the balloons right there."
In the golden afternoon hours, elementary school and junior high students from several schools including Pecan Grove, O.C. Johnson and Fourth Avenue Junior High gathered on the baseball field to put their tissue balloon creations to the test.
Caballeros De Yuma member Mark Ericson, along with two other volunteers, were helping the eager students fill up their balloons with hot air so they could expand and soar off into the sky.
"They've been working on this for about a month and a half so this is really fun, and it might lead the kids into engineering, mathematics, sciences or aerospace. That is why we do it," Ericson said, adding he was having just as much of a good time as the students.
"I've taught math for 30 years and it is still amazing to see what they've learned inside and outside the classroom. The smiles on their faces once they experience the accomplishment puts a smile on my face, you bet."
Veronica Doxtader, a sixth-grade teacher at Fourth Avenue, was out with several of her students, and said the entire experience is educational.
"There is a lot of team effort and they are learning to work together to get things done. They are beginning to think spatially when they are putting the plans together to come up with how they want their balloons to be shaped mentally."
According to Doxtader, her students were responsible for creating, planning and producing the tissue balloons.
"They did all the gluing, came up with the color designs and put all the panels together. They are excited to see their work floating. We are very successful and have had all of our balloons take off, so we are happy and very excited."
One of Doxtader's sixth-grade students, Antonio Torres, was thrilled to see all his hard work pay off.
"It took almost a month to build the balloons altogether. I learned it is hard to build those balloons and hot air is lighter than cold air, and goes up and takes the balloon with it. I didn't know that before this."
Peggy Eskew, a fifth-grade teacher at O.C. Johnson, has been bringing her students to the tissue paper event for years, and uses the opportunity to kick off a new chapter in her students' science program.
"For one thing, it is part of our fifth-grade standards to teach about matter, and this is to kick off our matter unit for science," Eskew said.
"It is a really neat thing, and some of these students have never gone to the balloon festival before, so it gets their families out here, too, and it's a great family thing."
Eskew said her students learn better when they are having fun.
"Oh definitely. I am a very hands-on person and that's how kids learn is by using their hands and do problem solving. This was very successful."
Ericson, who once taught at Yuma High School, is already looking forward to next year's launch.
"I can't wait to see what the kids come up with for next year with their designs and styles," he said. "It is something new every year and the students are creative and improve each time."
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.