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  • Mother Nature says stop releasing balloons

    Image 1. Balloons are released as part of a vigil ceremony in Britain in May 2017. Photo from: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images.

    Release a helium balloon on a bright, sunny day, watch it magically float up into the sky, and I dare you not to feel some variety of exhilaration, a sense of wonder, a longing for freedom, even suspense. It's like a 21-gun salute, but quieter. It's like a Chinese Sky Lantern ceremony, but for the daytime. People release big bunches of balloons for memorial services, grand openings, birthday parties and parades. It's just a Thing We Do, and it's fun. But it's really, really terrible for the environment. When a balloon ascends into the heavens, it doesn't end up on Jupiter. You know this. Although a helium balloon can rise to altitudes of five miles into Earth's atmosphere, it's got to come back down eventually. And when it does, it wreaks some havoc. That colorful little scrap of latex may end up living in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It could get tangled up in the flippers of a sea turtle or be eaten by one who mistakes it for a jellyfish. Or a bighorn sheep could mistake it for

    By Jesslyn Shields, How Stuff Works, adapted by Newsela staff on 04.19.18 Word Count 499 Level MAX

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 1

    Due 4/27/2018

    Name:__________________ Class period: ____________

    ** Don't forget to Stop-n-Jot your paragraphs!

    1. Write a Hashtag for this image. #

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  • forage. Or it might land in some farmer's pasture, where a cow chokes on the string. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, animals of the land, sea and air are equally susceptible to mistaking deflated balloons for food, or, arguably worse, getting tangled up and strangled by the ribbon attached to it.

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 2

  • This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 3

    2. In a complete sentence, explain why you think the author included this image.

  • Some balloons do break down eventually. A big part of the reason releasing balloons is permitted in so many places is that latex balloons are technically biodegradable. It takes one between six months and four years to break down completely, though they deteriorate in seawater more slowly than they do on land. Mylar balloons, on the other hand, are made out of NASA-grade nylon and are not biodegradable. They can hang out in the environment indefinitely. So, if balloons in the environment are so bad, why isn't releasing them outlawed? Well, in many states and municipalities, it is. And a few places in the U.K. and Australia have banned the release of balloons of all kinds. In the United States, California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia and some cities like Louisville, Kentucky, and Huntsville, Alabama, have put the kibosh on balloon releases. But the thing about helium balloons is they don't care about our random geographic boundaries. They land wherever they want to land. Hundreds of balloons drifting slowly into the wild blue yonder might give you warm, happy feelings. But is a brief display of color and zero confetti cleanup at your party worth a bunch of dead birds and turtles and many beaches full of trash? Absolutely not. But, on a related note, the world may be running out of helium soon anyway — giving the turtles and the birds a reason to throw their own great big party, without balloons.

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 4

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    3. Write a summary of this article.

  • Quiz

    1 Which statement is a MAIN idea of the article?

    (A) Different types of balloons have different degrees of biodegradability.

    (B) Helium balloons can rise 5 miles into the Earth's atmosphere.

    (C) Many people like balloons because they are colorful and don't leave a mess to clean up.

    (D) Helium balloons might go up in one state and fall in another state.

    2 Which sentence from the article would be MOST important to include in a summary of the article?

    (A) Release a helium balloon on a bright, sunny day, watch it magically float up into the sky, and I dare you not to feel some variety of exhilaration, a sense of wonder, a longing for freedom, even suspense.

    (B) People release big bunches of balloons for memorial services, grand openings, birthday parties and parades.

    (C) According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, animals of the land, sea and air are equally susceptible to mistaking deflated balloons for food, or, arguably worse, getting tangled up and strangled by the ribbon attached to it.

    (D) But the thing about helium balloons is they don't care about our random geographic boundaries.

    3 Which sentence from the article BEST introduces biodegradability to the reader?

    (A) That colorful little scrap of latex may end up living in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    (B) Or it might land in some farmer's pasture, where a cow chokes on the string.

    (C) Some balloons do break down eventually.

    (D) They can hang out in the environment indefinitely.

    4 What is MOST LIKELY the reason the author included the information about Earth running out of helium?

    (A) to show why many people who love balloons are becoming distressed

    (B) to show that animals have new threats they are facing in the wild

    (C) to persuade the reader to help Earth's atmosphere by trying to use less helium

    (D) to suggest one solution for the balloon problem discussed in the article

    This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 5

    4. You MUST prove your answers!

  • This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 6

    Mother Nature says stop releasing balloons Quiz