What Did Viewers at Home Learn?
The boys onscreen learned that the more passengers a hot air balloon needed to carry, the greater its volume needed to be. This information was made clear to them through the series of investigations they conducted. The viewers at home, however, did not have this opportunity. Despite that limitation, were they able to grasp the main ideas being conveyed during the episode?
Alice Apley, a researcher with RMC Research Corporation, conducted an evaluation to try to answer this question. Working with 174 fourth and fifth graders from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds in Massachusetts and New Mexico, Apley first wanted to find out what the students remembered from the episode. For example, did they understand what the investigation was about? Did they recall the steps of the investigation and the kinds of data that were collected?
After conducting extensive interviews with the students, Apley found that the viewers were able to answer these questions easily: 61 percent could accurately explain the point of the investigation. Some students described it in terms of the size and weight of the balloon: “trying to learn how balloons carry weight, how it can stay in the air,” “how the balloons float in the air, how big it has to be to float,” and “how they flew and which size flew better.” Other students responded in a more general way, saying that the inquiry was about how hot air balloons fly and stay in the air.
An impressive 90 percent of the viewers understood that the teen investigators were testing balloons of different sizes and/or weights to determine how well they stayed in the air. One student
The onscreen cues help viewers at home better understand how the boys conducted their investigation.