English Breakfast: Remember Felix Baumgartner?

Launch of the weather ballon
© Axel Zahlut

Remember that crazy Austrian daredevil who jumped out of a high tech balloon at 38.969,8 meters of altitude? Four years ago that -main jump- took place. At the time, it was spectacular. Baumgartner made a sporting event out of that adventure. The longest base jump so to speak. Last week, a grammar school close to Vienna reproduced that jump. This time, no human being jumped out of the weather ballon, but the results were just as staggering. Students of the 4D class realized a project that they called -StratosvierD-. But how did it work?

The project!

The idea came from their physics teacher last summer. Markus Gruber saw a Youtube clip and found a firm specializing in the materials needed. The students were split into committees organizing sponsors, public relation strategies and producing photos and a video related to the project. But the foundation was laid in the geography, physics and biology classes studying the weather, calculating the flight and learning about the -passengers- on board.

Speaking of the -passengers-: Instead of sending a human being up to the stratosphere, the students chose to go with eggs. Eggs of triops. Triops is a crayfish from the Stone Age. They endure almost everything, extreme heat and extreme cold. After being exposed to rain, the baby triops hatch. In 36 Kilometers of altitude the weather balloon would burst and the package with the eggs would drift back to Earth using a parachute.

The Procedure!

The PR-committee
© Axel Zahlut

The students’ responsibility was key. They decided what to do and when. The teacher Markus Gruber only engaged when the timing was critical in order to enhance the performance. Like when the students planned a launch during their annual school festival and the package from DHL was delivered just two hours before the launch. Otherwise, there was no interference. 


To round up the festival, the students invited two distinguished astronauts who flew to space and had their stories to tell. John Fabian and Vladimir Remek reminded everyone - me included - that there are no boarders from outta space, no conflicts and no wars. We need to take responsibility! Very insightful regarding the current crises.

Responsibility is the key!

Speaking of responsibility: Whenever the students feel like they have a lasting impact on the lesson’s design, the school lesson is going to be successful. Also, the start of the weather ballon was the highlight from a spectator’s perspective but not pedagogically. What happened before the launch, the interaction between the teachers, the students and the parents, the elaboration of content in a new way and the increased self-confidence of the students because they acted independently were a glimpse into the future of learning. Hopefully, examples like this lead the way …