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Ted's teaching tips

Hot-air ballooning is in the news because of Andy Elson's and Richard Branson's latest attempts to circumnavigate the Earth. This week's Big Picture offers interesting work in four main areas.

1 History

Look at key events in air travel: the first glider (1891); Orville and Wilbur Wright's first aeroplaneflew 260 metres (1903); planes carrying passengers and packages (1920s onwards); military aircraft (First and Second World Wars); the jet engine (late 1930s). What does air transport offer us today (holidays abroad, speedy transport of people, goods and letters)?

2 Science and technology

Discuss how a balloon is lifted by rising hot air or lighter-than-air gasses like hydrogen (dangerous: the 'Hin-denberg' blew up in 1937) or helium. Our breath is too heavy (balloons we blow up sink). Heavier-than-air aeroplanes and rockets fly because of forces like thrust, lift and drag. Gravity is countered by the upward thrust of rocket engines, or the lift and drag of air passing across an aeroplane's wings. Can we make something that flies (a paper aeroplane, a balloon)?

3 Geography

Use maps to follow Elson's or Branson's route. What wind patterns and other geographical features will affect him? What do we know about the countries and oceans he flies over?

4 Writing

Write a diary of a balloonist travelling the world. Describe the excitement of the 18th-century Montgolfier brothers. Finish the story, "When Uncle Joe invited the twins for their first ever hot air balloon flight, they never thought that ..."

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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