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

Measuring Vital Lung Capacity

Session 1 (cont.)

6. While those two students continue to hold the jug in place, a third student should carefully remove the lid and slide one end of the tubing up into the submerged mouth of the jug. The lungometer is now ready for testing.

7. Before each student uses the lungometer, he or she should insert his or her own clean mouthpiece into the plastic tubing.

8. To measure vital lung capacity, each student will inhale deeply and then blow out all the air he or she can through the tubing into the jug. Then, the students holding the jug should put the lid back on and carefully turn the jug upright. This will enable them to determine the amount of water remaining. Have each student record this value on his/her “Lungometer Data Sheet.”

9. Have younger students measure their vital lung capacities once. Older students may try three times and determine the average.

10. Allow students to calculate their vital lung capacities as shown on the “Lungometer Data Sheet.” (Total volume of jug will equal approximately 4,000 mL with a standard gallon milk jug.)


Session 2

1. With younger students, draw a large graph on the board. Label the X axis “Students.” Number the Y axis from 0 to 4,000 mL, using 500 mL intervals. Have the students write their names and lung capacity measurements on “sticky” notes. Help each student place his/her “sticky” at the appropriate level on the graph.

2. Older students should obtain the average value for their vital lung capacities, as shown on the “Lungometer Data Sheet.” After students have completed their calculations, have them graph their average vital lung capacities as illustrated above.

3. Discuss the class results represented on the graph. Ask, Which was the highest vital lung capacity? Which was the lowest? What range of values did we find? How could we find the average vital lung capacity for the class?

4. Elicit a discussion of factors that might limit vital lung capacity. Ask questions such as, What might account for differences in vital lung capacity? Do large people have larger vital lung capacities? How does exercise affect vital lung capacity? How might the vital lung capacity of a smoker compare to that of a non-smoker?

5. Have students group their data (for example, by student height or by amounts of daily exercise) to investigate some of the questions raised during their classroom discussion.


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

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