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Moving Air

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

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In this activity, students will observe how the temperature of air can change the size of soap/glycerin bubbles. They will make predictions, record observations, and draw conclusions based on their investigations. Students will learn that high temperatures cause air to expand and take up more space (when held in an expandable container), while cold temperatures cause air to contract and occupy less space.    

1. Divide students into small groups. (If your students are very young, you may prefer to conduct the activity as a discovery lesson with the entire class.) 

2. Ask Materials Managers to collect the materials for their groups.

3. Demonstrate how to dip the open end of a can into the bubble solution to create a thin film. Have students predict what might happen to the bubble film when the can is placed in ice water, water at room temperature, and warm water. Students should use a red crayon to record their predictions on the "My Observations" worksheet. Then, have students dip the open ends of their cans into bubble solution. A film of solution will be visible across the tops of their cans.

4. Direct each group to place its can in the cup containing ice water and observe the bubble film for about a minute. Ask, What is happening to the bubble? and What does this tell us about the air inside? Have students use the blue crayon to record their observations on the “My Observations” worksheet.

5. Next, direct students to make a new bubble film, and repeat the above steps to observe the effects of room temperature and warm water on the bubble. 

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