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TOOELE — It started as a way to break up an argument over who got to keep a balloon and ended up turning into a teaching opportunity.
When classes get 10 days of perfect attendance at Northlake Elementary School, the school rewards the students with pencils. To make it a bit more fun, school officials tie a balloon around the pencils.
When Katherine Degen's third-grade class achieved perfect attendance in December, her students all got pencils. But some of them started arguing over who would get to keep the balloon. To solve the problem, the class attached a note to the balloon and decided to see where it would land.
“This balloon came all the way from Tooele, Utah," the note said. "Let us know where it ended up.” The note included the school's address on it. They launched the balloon on Dec. 7 from the school playground.
I noticed a shriveled-up balloon with colorful ribbon laying in some tall grass. When I picked it up (I) was delighted to see a small note attached! What a wonderful idea.
–Daryl Jones, South Bend, Ind., resident
Several weeks later, on Jan. 24, the class received a letter from Daryl Jones. When the students found out about the letter, ”they jumped up and down and were screaming and yelling, they were so excited,” Degen said.
Jones said he found the balloon around Christmastime in his backyard while walking his dog.
“I noticed a shriveled-up balloon with colorful ribbon laying in some tall grass,” he wrote. ”When I picked it up (I) was delighted to see a small note attached! What a wonderful idea, and such a journey it must have had traveling over six or maybe seven states to me.”
The students were surprised it had traveled 1,509 miles to South Bend, Ind.
“I’m impressed with how far it went,” 8-year-old Carson Eldredge said. “It was cool,” said 9-year-old Alex Jefferies.
Jones said he was amazed that the class had only sent one balloon. “That’s surprising. I was expecting maybe 100 (balloons) or something like that; maybe they were going to see how far some of them went. … Chances of somebody finding it, it’s like hitting the lottery.”
The students plan to launch another balloon as soon as they get their next 10 days of perfect attendance.
Contributing: Alex Cabrero.