Properties of air and gases
(science for middle grades)
Activities and Lesson plans

Overview

A plan to facilitate a review and develop a deeper understanding of the properties of air.

Activities explore the properties of gases: take up space, are matter, have volume, exert pressure

Background information:

This plan is designed to increase knowledge in the following areas:

Related study topics:

Big ideas, concepts, facts, and outcomes

Big ideas

  • Matter occupies space.
  • No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.
  • Air can be pushed out of the way by solid objects, liquids and gases.
  • There is a lot of air above us pushing down.
  • Solids, liquids, and gases exert more pressure at the bottom than at the top.

Related concepts and facts

  • Better decisions are made when information is verified before being considered accurate and used to reason and develop explanations and models to understand the world and make decisions.
  • People make better decision when they understand and consider the positive and negative influences that effect their decision making.

Outcome

Use accurate verifiable information to consider properties of gases and how understanding them can influence us in making decisions.

Science physical, earth, life

Big ideas: Air is matter; occupies space, exerts a force or pressure.

Related concepts

  • Matter
  • States of matter
  • Gases and liquids flow when they exert unequal pressure on each other.

Outcome

  1. Describe air as a gas that is matter that takes up space and has mass. It exerts a force and flows when not at equilibrium.

 

Inquiry & process skills to enhance science literacy

Big ideas:

Related concepts and facts

  • Experimenting and reasoning observational data can be collect and used to create explanations or reasons that can be used to predict future interactions and the results of those interactions.

Outcome

  1. Make explanations based on observations to understand cause and effect.

Unified Process - Properties Constancy, Change, & Measurement

Big ideas: Properties of objects are determined by the elements from which they are made. Properties can remain constant, change, and be measured. They are used to identify objects, as variables in experiments, operational definitions, and explanations. Properties of matter include: color, texture, size, shape, mass, volume, density, temperature, chemical, energy, states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma) and the ability to interact with other objects. Properties can be measured with scientific tools and compared to a standard unit (linear, time, temperature, mass, volume, and density)

to enhance science literacy

Big ideas:

Related concepts and facts

  • Properties
  • Equilibrium
    • When objects exert equal forces on each other they are at equilibrium.
    • When objects are not in equilibrium one will displace the other.

Outcome

  1. Explain how air exerts pressure and will flow to spaces with less pressure.

Pedagogical Overview

Activities Sequence to provide sufficient opportunities for students to achieve the targeted outcomes.

Make sure students have the prior knowledge identified in the background information.

  1. Balloons and water
  2. Inverted cup pushed under water with and without paper towel
  3. Jars with 2 holes in lids investigate how water does an does not flow through the hole(s).
  4. Plastic cup filled with water and holes punched through the side at the top, middle, and bottom
  5. Remove water from a jar without lifting it from the water Use a plastic tube, syringe to remove a cup filled with water and submerged.
  6. Stick breaking break a stick on a table with one-third of it hanging over, one full newspaper sheet placed on top of the other two-thirds, karate chop
  7. Straw with water and finger on top
  8. Cup filled with water with card board over top and inverted
  9. Lift a student with air challenge
  10. Crushing a can

Focus question

Unit focus question:

What is air? How do we use it and respect it?

Sub focus questions:

  1. What is air?
  2. What are the properties of air?
  3. What causes air to flow?
  4. What is air pressure?

Resources and Materials

Lab notes

  1. lab note 1
  2. lab note 2
  3. lab note 3
  4. lab note 4
  5. lab note 5
  6. lab note 6
  7. lab note 7

References and additional resources

Scoring guides suggestions (rubric)

Air as matter (scoring guide)

Top level

  • Air is matter, takes up space, has mass, and will flow from higher pressure areas to lower pressure.
  • Air moves water.

Lower level

Lesson Plans

Activity 1 - Balloons and water

Materials:

  • Balloons inflated to different sizes (at least three), tub of water, science journal or drawing materials

Focus questions:

  1. What is inside a balloon?
  2. What happens when balloons are put into water?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Students will explain and give examples that air takes up space.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Put different sizes of balloons under water.
  2. Observe how the water moves.
  3. Draw and explain how the balloon pushes the water aside and will change the level of the water in containers.

 

Exploration

Activity:

  1. Blow up a balloon and tie it off.
  2. Ask. What is inside this balloon?
  3. Ask. What will happen when the balloon is pushed into the water.
  4. Listen to responses and do not comment on accuracy.
  5. Ask. What will happen if balloons of different sizes are submerged in water?
  6. Ask. How they can record the data. Can draw pictures of the different sizes of balloons and the different levels of water.
  7. Have students submerge balloons and record data.
  8. Have students share their pictures.
  9. Have students pick one of their pictures and line them up according to the results.

Invention

Activity:

  1. Ask students to interpret results.
  2. Ask where at home would they be able to see the same kind of results (kitchen sink with dishes, bath…).
  3. Review

Activity 2 - Inverted cup without and with paper towel pushed under water

Materials:

  • Clear cup or glass, tub of water, paper towels, journal or drawing materials

Focus questions:

  1. What happens to an empty glass when it is put into water?
  2. How you put a paper towel under water and keep it dry?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how air in a cup will and will not flow from a glass in water.

 

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Put a cup under water and see how it flows into the cup.
  2. Push an inverted cup under water and see how the water will not flow into the cup.
  3. Push an inverted cup, with a paper towel, under water and show how the water will not flow into the cup and the paper towel will remain dry.

Scoring guide for

Top level

  • Explain the air fills the space in the cup and the water will not flow in unless it can push the air out.

Lower level

Exploration

Activity:

  1. Ask. What will happens when a cup is placed in water?
  2. Ask. What will happen if the cup is pushed open end down into the water?
  3. Have students do the activity and draw where the water is.
  4. Have students share their drawings and discuss where the water goes.
  5. Ask. Where the water is when the glass is tipped to the side?
  6. Have them draw pictures to show their answers, discuss, and have them prove their explanations.
  7. Ask. How can they could use the paper towel to prove that there was or was not water in the glass when it was pushed under the water?
  8. Ask. What will happen if the cup is placed open end down into the water?
  9. Have the students do the activity and draw where the water is.
  10. Have the students share their drawings and discuss where the water goes.
  11. Ask. Where is the water when the glass is tipped to the side?
  12. Have them draw pictures to show their answers, discuss, and have them prove them if the desire.

Invention

  1. Why will a boat leak if it has a hole?

Activity 3 - Jars with 2 holes in lids

Materials:

  1. Baby food jar, several lids for each jar, one with no holes, one with one hole in center, one with two holes - one toward each opposite edge, lab notes & drawing supplies
  2. Lab notes with pictures to look at and describe what would happen for each jar in the four positions.

Focus questions:

  1. What happens when a container with holes is put into water?
  2. What happens when a boat has a hole?

Learning outcomes:

Air takes up space and flows (scoring guide)

Top level

  • Water will enter depending on the position of the holes.

    • Water will enter if one hole is positioned above the other. If the holes are at equal levels the air will be trapped.
    • When the jar is pushed in up side down there is more pressure on it and the water will not go in. When the jar is pushed in another way there is less pressure and the water will go in.
    • Water enters the bottom hole because there is more pressure on the bottom than on the top.
    • If both holes are at the same depth the pressure is the same and no water will enter.
    • If the bottle traps the air it occupies the space so that the water cannot enter, if the air can exit through one hole, the water will enter through the other.
  • Water will not enter.

    • Because it is air tight.
    • The jar will float with the lid up so no water will go in.
    • The holes are too small to let in the water. The holes are too small to allow the molecules of water to fit through.
    • The holes will create an air pocket and not permit water to flow into the jar.
    • The pressure from inside the jar is too forceful to let the water in. The air pressure will not allow the water into the jar. The air pressure goes out through the holes keeping the water out. Air pressure will keep the water out. The air pressure is stronger than the water pressure. The air inside is stronger than the water. The air takes up the space and blocks the entrance of the water. Air takes up space and the water will not enter since the air is taking all the space.
    • The air will push against the water causing it to move out of its way (allowing it to stay inside the inverted jar).
    • If the jar is on its side some air will escape, but not enough to let any water in the jar.
    • There is not enough pressure to push the water through the holes.
    • The pressure of pushing the jar into or around in the water will push some water into the jar.
    • As the jar is pulled out of the water the water will be sucked out because more water is being displaced over a bigger area and the jar will come out of the water with out any water inside.
  • Water will enter through the holes.

    • Water will enter because the jar is being twisted and rotated.
    • The water pressure is greater than the air pressure so the water will push the air out.
    • The water pressure is greater than the air pressure and therefore will push the air out.
    • A vacuum will be created with the release of air from one hole and the water will be sucked into the jar through the other hole.
    • Water will enter when you push the jar down because pushing it down increases the pressure in the jar causing the air to escape leaving room in the jar for water to enter.
    • Pushing the jar down causes pressure to be released through the jar holes causing bubbles to form and water to fill the jar.
    • Pushing the jar down into the water will force water into the jar.
    • Pressure is built up causing bubbles to form and then water will start to enter.
    • If the jar is held under water with the holes on top water will go into the jar and completely fill it, if it's held under long enough.
    • The air will push against the water causing it to move out of its way (and bubble to the surface) of the jar on its side.
    • There would be a little bit of water because of the twisting and turning.
    • The longer the jar is under water the more water that would enter. If it would be left in overnight there would be more.
    • Having a hole on each side helps with pressure being released equally.
    • Bubbles will come from the two holes as the water pushes the air out of the jar.
    • When one hole is out of the water and the other is in the water.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Ask. What will happen if they put the jar into the water with holes in the lid.
  2. Tell. Sort the jars into categories according to amounts of water that will enter. Empty, half, full.
  3. Ask. Remember the glass? Did it made a difference how the glass was put into the water?
  4. Recommend that they try different ways and if there is a difference to record the differences in their lab notes.
  5. Have the students experiment and draw pictures of what happens.
  6. Encourage the students to turn the jars.
  7. Watch the students as they record the information. See if they are drawing the position of the holes accurately for the results.
  8. Have students share their drawings.
  9. Make a chart with the following categories:
    1. No holes,
    2. One hole,
    3. Two holes.
  10. Poll the students and record if there was water in the jars for each category.
  11. Have them explain the results and describe what will happen for each baby food jar in each of the four pictures if it were held under water in those positions.
  12. Have them describe what you believe would happen for the jar lid system if it was held under water in any position. The four positions and all positions between them.

Invention

  1. Ask. How they can use the results.

Activity 4 - Plastic cup with three holes punched in the side

Materials:

  • Large plastic pop cup, punch one hole at the top, middle, and bottom of a side, cover each hole with masking tape, fill with water, hold over bucket, pull tape from the holes, lab notes & drawing supplies

Focus questions:

  1. What happens when a hole is punched in a container with water?
  2. What causes the water to leak?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how the amount of water above the hole pushes the water out of the hole and the more water the harder it pushes.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Observe a container with three holes (one at the top, middle, & bottom) leak water.
  2. Describe how the water leaks.
  3. Explain what causes the water to leak and variables that make a difference (amount of water, size of hole).

Scoring guide for

Top level

  • The water and air above a hole pushes the water below out. The more water the greater the push.
  • Water fall down.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Put students in groups.
  2. Show students a plastic cup with three holes.
  3. Ask. What will happen when the cup is filled with water and the tape is pulled from the holes?
  4. Have them record their predictions in their lab notes.
  5. If they don't predict differences in amounts leaking from the holes, suggest they might want to consider how much water will leak from each hole and what the difference might be.
  6. Pull the tapes.
  7. Have students draw the results
  8. Ask. What made a difference?
  9. Record what happened

Invention

  1. Ask. Where they could see something similar?
  2. Could measure the volume that leaks from each hole and compare them.
  3. What is the difference between the amount from each hole?
  4. How much does the difference depend on the amount of water available above each hole and the pressure?

Activity 5 - Remove water from a jar without lifting it from the water

Materials:

  • Baby food jar, plastic tubing, syringe that the tubing will fit, tub of water

Focus questions:

  1. How can the water be removed from a container while it is under water?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate and explain air can be used to force water from the cup.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Challenge students to empty a cup filled with water while it is under water.
  2. Give student a syringe and tubing to solve the challenge.
  3. When appropriate sugges to students to use the syringe to blow water into the cup .

Scoring guide for

Top level

  1. Air is matter, has mass, and volume and can displace matter (water).

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Tell. Fill the jar with water and put it upside down in the tub so it is under water and filled with water .
  2. Ask. Is it possible to get the water out of the container without lifting out of the water?
  3. After a few minutes. Suggest they might be able to do so with a syringe and tubing.
  4. Provide a syringe and tubing to each group and challenge them to get the water out of the jar.
  5. Let the students experiment.
  6. The students usually try to suck the water out of the cup. It will be up to you to decide if and how to prompt them to try to push air into the cup to push the water out.
  7. Tell. Draw a before, during, and after picture to explain what happened.
  8. Share results.

Invention

  1. Ask. Where they could use what they learned.

 

Activity 6 - Stick breaking

Materials:

  • Cheap yard stick, full sheet of newspaper

Focus questions:

  1. Will air pressure on piece of newspaper keep a stick whole or will it provide enough force to hold a stick so a karate chop will break it?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how air pressure can be used to hold a stick, or support it, enough so it can be broken.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Demonstrate how air pressure can be used to hold a stick, or support it, enough so it can be broken.

Scoring guide for

Top level

  1. Explain the air in the atmosphere is strong enough to hold a sheet of newspaper with enough force to hold a stick so it can be broken.
  2. It is magic.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Set the yardstick on a table with about two-thirds on the table and one-third hanging over the edge. Place the full sheet of newspaper over the two-thirds of newspaper on the table. Smooth the paper out so it is touching the stick.
  2. As the students what will happen if you smack the stick on the end that is hanging over the table.
  3. Use a quick sharp blow on the end of the stick that is hanging over the edge of the table.
  4. Ask the students what happened and how it happened.
  5. Ask the students if they know of other ways that air has force (a push or pull).

Invention

  1. See activity 7, 8, 9, & 10 below.

 

Activity 7 - Straw with water and finger on top

Materials:

  • Straw and cup of water

Focus questions:

  1. How can a straw be made to hold a straw full of water or not?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how atmospheric pressure will hold water in a straw.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Students deomonstrate how a straw can be filled with water and the water will remain in the straw or flow out of it.

Scoring guide for

Top level

  1. Explain atmospheric air pressure (force) holds the water in the straw when the finger is on the top of the straw. When the finger is not on the strad the atmospheric pressure (force) is equal on both ends of the straw and therefore the water will flow from the straw.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Ask. What will happen if a straw is put into a cup of water and pulled out?
  2. Ask. How can a straw be put into the water and pulled out with and without water in it?
  3. What causes the difference?
  4. What force cause the water to stay in?
  5. What force cause the water to flow out?

Invention

  1. See activity 8, 9, & 10 below.

Activity 8 - Upside down cup of water

Materials:

  • Cup, index card, or oak tag, large enough to cover the opening on the cup, water, and tub

Focus questions:

  1. How can a cup full of water be turned upside down so the water will stay in the cup?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how the air pressure from the air in the atmosphere will push on the card with enough force to hold the water in the cup.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Use an index card or oak tag to hold water in a cup as it is turned upside down.

Scoring guide for

Top level

  1. Explain the atmospheric air pressure (force) holds the water in the cup by pushing on the card.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Ask. What will happen if they fill the cup full of water, place the card over the mouth, and turn the cup upside down.
  2. Have students do the activity.
  3. Ask. What happened and how it happened?

Invention

  1. Ask them if they can think of other examples of air having force.
  2. See activity 9, & 10 below.

Activity 9 - Challenge: How can air lift a student?

Materials:

  • Plastic bag, air pump, duct tape, board, chair, student.

Focus questions:

  1. Is air have enough force to lift a person?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how air has enough force to move a person or anything that has less force.

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Challenge students to create a way to lift the student.
  2. If necessary lead them to use the air pump to pump air into the plastic bag, which will provide enough force to lift the student.

Scoring guide for

Top level

  1. The air pumped into the plastic bag has a force greater than the force of the student pushing down on the plastic. Therefore, the plastic bag pushes the student up.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Ask. How can the materials be used to lift a person?

Invention

  1. How is air pressure used in technology?
  2. See activity 10 below.

 

Activity 10 - Crushing a can with air

Materials:

  • Hot water, can with screw on lid, ice.

Focus questions:

  1. Is the atmosphere air strong enough to crush a can?

Learning outcomes:

  1. Explain how air in the atmosphere has enough force to crush a can when the air inside pushes out with less force than the atmosphere (air outside).

Suggested procedures overview:

  1. Challenge students to create a way to crush a can with hot water and ice.
  2. If necessary lead them to use a temperature difference to change the energy of the air inside the can so there is less force pusing out.

Scoring guide for

Top level

  1. The hot water causes the air inside to expand. WHen the lid is put on the can and ice is added the air inside contracts and the force of the atmosphere on the outside is greater than the force inside, causing the can to crush.

Lower level

Exploration

  1. Ask. How can the materials be used to crush the can?

Invention

  1. How is air pressure used in technology?
  2. See heat energy activities.

 

Lab Notes for activities

Activity 1 - Balloons and water

Materials:

  • Balloons inflated to different sizes (at least three), tub of water, science journal or drawing materials

Focus questions:

What is inside a balloon?

 

What happens when balloons are put into water?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 2 - Inverted cup without and with paper towel under water

Materials:

  • Clear cup or glass, tub of water, paper towels, lab notes & drawing materials

Focus questions:

What happens to an empty glass when it is put into water?

 

 

 

How do you put a paper towel under water and keep it dry?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 3 Jars with 2 holes in lids

Materials: Baby food jar, several lids for each jar, one with no holes, one with one hole in center, one with two holes - one toward each opposite edge, lab notes & drawing supplies

Procedure:

Describe what will happen for each baby food jar in each of the four pictures if it were held under water in those positions.

Jar underwater pic jar 2

Jar 1 - will

 

 

 

Jar 2 - will

 

 

 

 

jar 3 jar 4

Jar 3 - will

 

 

 

Jar 4

 

 

 

 

Describe what you believe would happen for the jar lid system if it was held under water in any position. The four positions and all positions between them.

 

Activity 4 - Plastic cup with three holes punched in the side

Materials:

  • Clear cup or glass, tub of water, paper towels, lab notes & drawing materials

Focus questions:

What happens when a hole is punched in a container with water?

 

What causes the water to leak?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 5 - Remove water from a jar without lifting it from the water

Materials:

  • Baby food jar, plastic tubing, syringe that the tubing will fit, tub of water

Focus question:

How can the water be removed from a container while it is under water?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 6 - Stick breaking

Materials:

  • Cheap yard stick, full sheet of newspaper

Focus question:

Will air pressure on a piece of newspaper keep a stick whole or will it provide enough force to hold a stick so a karate chop will break it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 7 - Straw with water and finger on top

Materials:

  • Straw and cup of water

Focus question:

How can a straw be made to hold a straw full of water or not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 8 - Upside down cup of water

Materials:

  • Cup, index card, or oak tag, large enough to cover the opening on the cup, water, and tub

Focus question:

How can a cup full of water be turned upside down so the water will stay in the cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 9 - Challenge: How can air lift a student?

Materials:

  • Plastic bag, air pump, duct tape, board, chair, student.

Focus question:

How can you use air to lift a person?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity 10 - Crushing a can with air

Materials:

  • Hot water, can with screw on lid, ice.

 

Focus question:

How can air pressure crush the can?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
homeofbob.com