AIR IS THERE
Students will observe air and some of its properties, such as
it has mass, takes up space, can move things, and rises when heated. A video
will be used to reinforce their observations and to show interesting uses
of air, such as sailing, raising a roof, and parachuting. Students will
use the science process skills of observing, hypothesizing, experimenting,
measuring, and recording data. The lesson will take approximately two hours
and can be broken up into shorter segments.
3-2-1 Classroom Contact, #21: Air is Matter: Air is There
- observe air carry out experiments to demonstrate properties of air--takes
up space, has mass, can move things, rises when heated
- use science process skills as they observe, hypothesize, experiment,
gather and record data, interpret data, and control variables use the math
skill of measurement
For the class:
- chart paper
- markers for chart paper
- extra sandwich bags(see below) and balloons
- sturdy table
- light weight plywood or heavy cardboard large enough to support the
teacher or principal
- small aquarium
- clear plastic cup
- 3-2-1 Classroom Contact Teacher s Guide
For each group of 4 students:
- a book
- large container for water
- tray to catch overflow from large container
- 2 balloons
- 2 paper clips
- balance or a meter stick, tape, and string
For each student:
- science journal
- sandwich bag and twist ties or self sealing sandwich bags(such as
Ziploc brand bags)
Make a web showing information about air that students know.
Post this list during the lesson. As observations are made, facts may change
or be added to the web.
Give each student a sandwich bag and ask them to fill it with air and seal
the top. Some might blow in it, others might swish it through the air to
fill it. Have students list words in their science journal that describe
the air in their bag.
Have one student in each group sit on his/her bag. What happens? Replace
the broken bags. Challenge each group of four to use their bags to hold
one member of the group up. (Hint: A thin book between the child and the
bags will make this work better!) Students should describe what works in
their science journal.
One of the properties of matter is that it takes up space (has volume).
Ask the students how they know that air takes up space. They have just seen
this by filling the bag with air. They can feel that there is something
in the bag, even though they cannot see it. To further demonstrate this,
have one child place a container filled to the top with water on a tray.
Have another child put an empty bag in the water and describe what happens.
Then have a third child push his/her bag of air under water. What happens?
Why is their a difference in the water spilled with each of the two bags.
Responses to these questions should be recorded in each child s science
Another property of matter is that it has mass. Ask students how they might
prove air has mass. Try some of their suggestions. One technique is to have
students in each group of four blow up two balloons and close each with
a paper clip. Place one balloon and its clip in each pan of the balance
and move the rider until they balance. Deflate one of the balloons. (If
balances are not available, students can hang a meter stick from a table
on a string that is tied to the center of the stick. An inflated balloon
can be taped to each end of the meter stick. Extra tape can be added where
needed to get the system into balance. Deflate one of the balloons.) Students
should observe what happens and record the information in their science
journals. Why does the balance tilt? What does this show you about air?
To demonstrate that air can move things, students can blow up their teacher
(or the principal). Each student should tape a straw into the open mouth
of a balloon. Have them stand around the table and place their balloons
on the table with the straws pointing away from the table. Place a piece
of lightweight plywood or heavy cardboard on top of the balloons. The plywood/cardboard
should be large enough to support the teacher, when lying down. Lie down
on this surface. On the count of three, all of the children should blow
up their balloons using the straws. They should be able to blow up their
teacher. Students should observe what happens and record the information
in their science journals. Why does the teacher rise?
To demonstrate that warm air rises, have each group make a spiral of paper
(see below). Tie a string to the center of the spiral and hang it over a
heat source, such as a radiator, candle (with caution), or a hot plate.
Students should observe what happens and record the information in their
science journals. What causes the paper to spin?
Explain that the class will be viewing a video on air that will
review some of the things they have already learned about air and teach
them some new things about how air is used. To give students a specific
responsibility while viewing, ask them to look for evidence of air as they
watch the first part of the video.
Turn off the sound and START the video after the opening
credits, at the beginning of the tumbleweed scene. STOP the video
as the hang glider starts to go down and REWIND it to the beginning
of the tumbleweed scene. Turn the volume back on.
Have students describe the evidence of air that they have seen in the video.
Explain to the students that they will be watching the same piece of the
video again. To give students a specific responsibility while viewing, ask
them to look for additional evidence of air as they watch the video again.
RESUME the video at the tumbleweed scene. PAUSE video as the
hang glider starts to go down and the narrator says even travel on it.
Have students describe any new evidence they have that air is present.
Ask students to recall how they demonstrated that air takes up space. To
give students a specific responsibility while viewing, ask them to find
out how the boy in the video demonstrates that air takes up space.
RESUME the video after the hang glider scene. PAUSE video
after the Instant Replay, when the narrator finishes saying A trick you
say? No, science.
Have students describe how the boy demonstrated that air takes us space.
His demonstration can be repeated in the classroom, using the aquarium full
of water, a clear plastic cup, and two tissues.
Ask students to recall how they demonstrated that air has mass. To give
students a specific responsibility while viewing, ask them to find out how
Kenneth demonstrates that air has mass.
RESUME the video. PAUSE video after Kenneth says I still hear
lingering doubts and holds his hand to his ear.
Have students describe how Kenneth demonstrated that air has mass. Discuss
how his demonstration is different from the classroom activity.
Ask students how they think a sail is like a roof and how they might both
relate to our study of air. To give students a specific responsibility while
viewing, ask them to find the answer to this riddle.
RESUME the video. PAUSE video after the roof is fully inflated,
when the music stops.
Have students discuss how a sail and this roof are similar and how they
are both affected by air. Ask if any of them have seen a roof like the one
in the video. Discuss the possible advantages and disadvantages of a roof
Ask students to predict how air might be used to make potatoes fly. To give
students a specific responsibility while viewing, ask them to find out how
the boy in the video makes this happen.
RESUME the video and PAUSE video after the Instant Replay
and the pop.
Have students describe how air was used to make a potato fly. Ask them if
they have seen anything else that works in the same way. Make a list of
Ask students to predict how air might be used to crush a can. To give students
a specific responsibility while viewing, ask them to find out how the boy
in the video makes this happen.
RESUME the video. PAUSE video after the boy says, air pressure
crushed the can....air in action.
Ask students to describe how the can was crushed. What have they observed
that makes them believe that air went out of the can when it was heated?
Ask students what reason there might be for parachutes being of different
sizes. To give students a specific responsibility while viewing, ask them
to find out the answer to this question and to find out why parachutes fall
RESUME the video. STOP video after Robin says, I loved it...I
was just floating.
Discuss with students why a parachute comes down so slowly and what the
relationship is between parachute size and weight held.
Go back to the original web and make sure all of the information
covered in the lesson has been updated. Look to see if there are other facts
that need to be explored and verified using research or experimentation.
Find out if there is a fabric roof in your area and, if there
is, visit it.
Go to an Air Show or other event and observe parachutists.
Interview a skydiver.
Visit a lake or the coast and watch sailboats or wind surfers. Compare the
different shapes of sails. Find out how sailboats move against the wind.
Talk to a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency about air
pollution concerns in your area.
Talk to a doctor to find out how asthma and emphysema affect a person s
ability to breathe.
Science: Design a wind-powered car. Experiment to find out what
size and shape of sail seems most effective.
Design a parachute to support a toy. Experiment to find out what size the
canopy needs to be to bring your toy gently back to the ground. Experiment
to see if putting a small hole in the top of the parachute makes it work
Do the activities from the 3-2-1 Classroom Contact Teacher s Guide.
Make an anemometer to measure wind speed.
Find out about the Beaufort Wind Scale and use it to describe the wind for
Find other experiments about air and try them. Keep track of your results
in your science journal.
Find out how hot air balloons work. Design and build a hot air balloon.
Master Teacher: Linda Harris
Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online