Each year, around the anniversary of the Montgolfier brother's first hot air balloon flight, the Balloon Explorium invites students from 5th grade classes in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Public Schools to participate in "Paper Takes Flight". The event which started in 1999, now brings over 500 5th grade students to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum to launch about 125 6' high tissue paper balloons the students have made in their classrooms the month before.

Below are some of the questions we field each year:

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions


Questions about Registration

How long do I have to register?

Most teachers registered within the first two weeks in previous years so we are giving you that again this year. Registration only takes a few minutes.

Why do I have to register on-line?

For the past several years we have had more schools wishing to participate than we have room or funds for - about 10 schools and 600 students. It used to be a first-come first-served process. This left many teachers who didn't receive the postcard in a timely manner out of the selection. In 2010 we initiated an on-line registration process and random drawing for selection. It worked well and we plan on using it from here on out. The postcards are mailed to the school to the attention of 5th Grade Teachers, so it might get lost in the internal routing. Those teachers that provided a direct mailing address (other than their school's address - we only send 1 card per address), receive their own postcard.

What information do I need to provide to register?

Teacher Name (your last & first name), School Name, School Office Phone where we could leave a message during school hours, School start time in the morning, number of students in your class, best after hours contact phone, best after hours contact time, e-mail, event day preference, and your street, city, state and ZIP.

Why do you need all this contact information?

We need to be able to contact you in case of changes or if we need additional information. Please provide us contact information where you can be reached outside of school hours. Sometimes it's hard to contact you during school hours, either school procedure or classroom involvement in something. Don't worry we won't be calling you late at night.

Why do you need contact information for outside of school times?

In the past we have had teachers forget to pick up their materials at the designated day and time and have been unable to reach them on the weekend to see if they were still planing to participate. As a result we have to give their slot and materials to the next school on the waiting list. If we need to contact you about bus pickup it is critical we can reach someone outside of their classroom.

What do you do with our contact information?

Your privacy is important to us. We will not use any of the information you provide us for any purpose not associated with Paper Takes Flight. We do not share your information with anyone else.

I'm the coordinator for all 5th grades at my school - can I simply register all the students under my name?

No, your registration will be invalidated and will not participate in the drawing. Our registration process kicks out suspicious information. A single teacher with a classroom size of 125 students is suspicious. So is one with no students. We also need to know how many different classes and teachers are registering for a school so we can provide the proper number of patterns, instructions, and lesson plans. In addition listing all the teachers participating and their contact information provides a school backup contacts.

I'm the coordinator for all 5th grades at my school - can I register for all the teachers?

Yes...providing you make a separate entry for each and every teacher. (see question above)

Several teachers/classes in our school want to participate. How can we be sure we will all be selected?

We actually do the selection process by school so all classes at that school are either selected or not, and all coming on the same day. Don't worry about all registering at the same time - just make sure everyone is registered prior to the deadline.

How soon will we be notified if we have been selected to participate?

We schedule the registration process to close on 5:00 pm on a Friday. We work the next week doing the selection drawings. Typically we send out notifications to the e-mail addresses you provided at registration by Thursday afternoon so they are in your inbox by Friday morning. If your e-mail rejects we will try one of the other contacts you provided on Friday. We notify both selected and non-selected registrants so there isn't any question.

Why are you going to 2 days?

For the past several years we have had more schools wishing to participate than we have room or funds for - about 10 schools and 600 students. In 2010 we had enough additional schools that were turned away to fill another day. So we decided to try a second day event to fill the need. Your school (if more than one class is participating) will need to agree on which day they wish to be considered for 1st, and indicate that in your registration. Schools will not be split between the two days.

I registered my class but none of the other 5th grade teachers registered. Our school was selected to participate. Does that mean all the other 5th grade classes can attend as well?

Sorry, no. Because of the demand we can only accept those classes that were registered at the time the registration period closed. Please do not ask us to make room for more classes from your school that didn't register.

I didn't follow the instructions and didn't respond to requests for the necessary information. I just found out that our school wasn't selected. Can we still participate if I provide you the information now?

Sorry, but just like in your classes there is a consequence for not doing the work correctly and failing to turn it in on time. Since there are more schools that want to participate than we have room for, you don't want to eliminate your chances even before the drawing by failing to follow instructions.

Questions about Participation

Do students or teachers have to pay anything to participate?

No. All materials, lesson plans, and museum entrance fees are paid for by the Balloon Explorium and the Anderson-Abruzzo Balloon Museum Foundation through donations and grants. We pay for all buses for Title I schools and the first bus for all other schools. Teachers, or their representative just have to pick up their materials at the designated day and time at the Balloon Museum.

Do you pay for all the buses?

We only play for all the buses for Title I schools. For all other schools we pay for the first bus only. The school is responsible for paying for all additional buses.

Do the students build the balloons at the Museum?

NO! The reason we provide you the materials in advance is so that your students can build them in class. We expect classes to arrive at the museum with their balloons built, tested, and ready to fly. Again - It is sad when students arrive at the event and they have to spend their time watching others fly balloons.

I've never built one of these balloons. Can I get someone to come to my school and show me?

Because we are a small group of volunteers, it is impossible for us to visit all the schools and teachers that want us to. What we do provide is time when you pick up your materials for groups of teachers to team up and build a balloon. We also have instructions on the website and a video on our Facebook page showing how to build one.

I can't make it to the Museum to pick up my materials, can you deliver them?

Because we are a small group of volunteers, it is impossible for us to deliver them to you. We ask that either you or your representative pick up your materials. This is one reason it is often good to have several 5th grade classes in a school participate - one teacher can pick up the materials for the entire school. Failure to pick them up at the designated day and time could mean your school being dropped from participation.

What's the best way to transport the tissue paper balloons to the Museum?

The best way to transport the balloons is to fold them, starting with the mouth, and place them in a trash bag. Each student may have their own trash bag or several balloons in a bag together. The students names need to be on the drywall tape if multiple balloons are grouped together. Since the students may be directed into the museum first, it is easier if an adult keeps the balloons safe until they are to be flown.

Do the students spend their entire time launching their balloons?

Although we're sure some students would like that, the answer is no. Schools will split their time between launching their balloons and touring the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.

Should students bring lunch? Snacks? Is there a place to eat / buy snacks?

We plan for the buses to pick you up at the museum by 11:30 am and hopefully back at school for lunch. If your lunch period is earlier, please let us know. We recommend that you not bring food, but it can be eaten outside on the grass. There is a snack machine, but no food is allowed in the museum proper.

Questions about the Kits

What sort of materials do you provide?

We have found that students derive more enjoyment when working in teams on their balloons. Therefore we provide materials for 1 balloon per team of 4 students. The kit contains 18 pieces of tissue paper, 2 glue sticks, about 9' of drywall tape, and about 10" of string. Each teacher/classroom gets one gore pattern, build instructions, and one set of lesson plans. This is why we need to accurately know the number of students in each class.

What is in the lesson plan?

All sorts of things...vocabulary, history, science, math, historical graphics.... about 25 pages of information and guides for you to use.

What sort of materials does the teacher need to provide?

Teachers will need to supply scissors and some sort of marker (chalk works great). Optionally a few hair dryers are nice if you want to test inflate your balloons prior to the field trip.

If I'm thrifty can I use your materials for other projects?

Please don't plan on it. We provide you just the right amount of materials to complete your balloons. If built correctly there is very little glue left. Any tissue paper left over students may need for repair or decorating their balloons. The designs we provide yield the best lift for your balloon. It is sad when students arrive at the event and they have to spend all their time fixing balloons not made properly.

How long do the tissue paper balloon take to make?

If you build a tissue paper balloon all at one time, it takes close to 1 1/2 hours with a team of 4. A teacher may have better control over her students, or a smaller group that may get them done in less time.

I have other questions, where can I get help?

If your questions deal specifically with Balloon Explorium or Paper Takes Flight, please contact us via the "Contact Us" page or one of the e-mail addresses on the Board of Directors page. We'll try to get back to you as soon as we can.