Thursday, November 20, 2014

After Reading Balloons Over Broadway, Students Design Their Own Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Balloons!

This week, students have been designing their own Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons after learning more about the origin of the parade!  Our journey began with the artistically illustrated Caldecott Honor book entitled Balloons Over Broadway, The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet.  In her book, Ms. Sweet shares the true story of Tony Sarg, the inventor of the huge balloons that we have come to expect each year in the parade!  Students were fascinated to learn how Tony Sarg's work as a puppeteer helped him to slowly consider and come up with the idea of filling the balloons with helium!  Tony Sarg's evolution of ideas leading to his invention is consistent with an earlier lesson we studied this year on how good ideas are born.  To read more about that lesson check out an earlier blog post at

After reading Balloons Over Broadway, students were filled with questions! What was it like to be at the first couple of parades?  What are the balloons made out of today?  Have there ever been any balloons that have crashed? (My students are always curious about potential disasters!) Why does helium make balloons float and how does that work? One student had heard about a helium shortage and was curious how that has effected the parade. We set about researching the answers to our questions.  I shared with them two videos from the History Channel website that gave us insight into the history and process of preparing for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Here is one of the videos...

Finally, I challenged my students to design their own Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons based on our favorite library books.  I lamented that often the balloons are based on movie and cartoon character, which is fine, but wouldn't also be fantastic if the balloons reflected popular children's books! Students accepted the challenge and had a blast coming up with their own balloons with the iPad app YouDoodle!