Last week launches

As students countywide launched their last week of school, science lessons took flight at Tuttle Elementary School.

When students arrived at Tuttle on Monday, they found an eight-story, red, white and blue science class inflating on the field adjacent to the school. Thanks to Remax Crossroads in Lincolnton and Remax Carolina Hot Air Balloon Team, students at the school were able to get a first-hand demonstration behind the science of giant balloons they may have only seen from afar.

"For a lot of these kids, they may have only seen a hot air balloon way off in the distance, but as far as ever being able to see it inflate and understand how the science works, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Tuttle Elementary Principal Deanna Finger. "They may not ever get to go to balloon festivals and that kind of thing, so we are trying to bring it here. It makes science come alive and be real to the kids."

And for Tuttle, the third time was the charm for this particular program. Finger said the school has tried to plan a hot air balloon visit on two separate occasions, including once earlier in the year. In the past, the weather never cooperated, but despite stormy skies Sunday, air was calm enough to allow the balloon to come in and offer rides to teachers and lessons to students.

"During the last week of school, it is a time when we try to get in pieces of the science curriculum that we have not been able to get to because we are so focused on reading and math all year long," Finger said. "This is a piece of everybody's science curriculum."

Throughout the day, Remax balloon pilot Tom Letten and his team offered classes in the school's gym. Lasting about 30-45 minutes, the classes focused on "the science of how it works," Finger said.

Sixth graders in school even got a chance for hands-on learning as they helped evacuate hot air from the balloon, deflating it and preparing it for travel.

Before classes began, however, teachers were able to volunteer for rides on the balloon. As they made their way "up, up and away," they got a bird's-eye view of their students as they floated into the air.

While the balloon was still tethered safely to the ground, it rose about 20 feet into the air.

"It was wonderful," said fourth-grade teacher Natalie Burris. "You didn't even feel like you were floating in the air."