NEW ROSS — Students at Walnut Elementary experienced a field trip of a different sort Tuesday.
Without ever leaving campus, every inquisitive mind at the grade school was taken to new heights after parents and administrators came together to find a way to supplement the cancellation of the school’s annual fall festival.
And with all field trips on the horizon postponed for the foreseeable future — also due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns — it became all the more crucial for students to get outside and have some fun while learning about a new topic like flight, Parent-Teacher Organization President Todd Douglas said.
“We knew the field trips were probably not going to happen, and our carnival,” Douglas said, “so we brainstormed an idea to bring a field trip to the school. This worked out amazing.”
A team effort between administrators and the district’s PTO, the giant hot air balloon from Bloomington Balloon Rides was inflated for two demonstrations on a crisp Tuesday morning at the school.
Principal Eric Brewer even joined company owner and pilot Andy Richardson in the balloon’s basket.
“As a team, we decided we couldn’t have our carnival like we normally do this time of year, so we wanted to do something fun for the kids,” Brewer said. “We thought, ‘Why not a hot air balloon?’ So (Douglas) organized it for us and it’s been a success.
“It’s a perfect day.”
Asked what he thinks of the hot air balloon, second grader Walker Cleek said the “coolest part” of the experience was seeing and feeling the warmth of the flames, even from a distance.
As for the balloon itself, Cleek simply said, “Um, all I think is it’s really big.”
Richardson and his hot air balloon company regularly visit schools, he said — a part of his job he thoroughly enjoys.
“We fly seven days a week; our flying season is May 1 until Thanksgiving, so we have about a month left,” he said. “We get a lot of requests to bring the balloons out and do demonstrations like this.”
And second-grade teacher Erin Barry said getting outside and having fun while learning is just what the kids needed.
“We’ve been inside and they’ve been masked up and distant from their friends,” she said. “Just to be able to come out and see something that most of the kids will never see again, probably in the lifetimes, is just a really cool experience.”