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Lungometer: Vital Lung Capacity

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

Let’s Get Started: Prepare the Lungometer

In this activity, students will make a lungometer to measure their vital lung capacity (the amount of air that can be forced out of the lungs in a single breath). Students will learn that the maximum amount of air that can be blown out of the lungs after taking a deep breath is known as vital lung capacity. They also will discover that people have different vital lung capacities. They will predict, model, observe and measure, graph, and draw conclusions based on their investigation.

Build a Lungometer

Divide students into groups of four. (If desired, each student may perform the investigation individually. This activity also can be conducted as a class demonstration.)

Have the Materials Managers collect the materials for their groups. 

Direct each group to calibrate the volume of its plastic jug by adding water, 500 mL at a time. One student should pour and another should use a crayon or permanent marker to label each level (500 mL, 1,000 mL, 1,500 mL, etc.). The total volume of a standard gallon milk jug will equal approximately 4,000 mL. 

Have students replace the cap when the jug is full. Then, have two students from each group turn the milk jug upside down and lower it into the tub of water, submerging the top. 

Students should be careful to make sure the cap remains secured on the jug.

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Numbers: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932

Houston Endowment Inc.

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education