Academic journal article Science Scope

An Air of Respectability

Academic journal article Science Scope

An Air of Respectability

Article excerpt

Hold up an open container without any obvious liquid or solid in it and ask a typical class what's in the container, and you will readily and enthusiastically get the response, "Nothing." Out of sight, out of mind is a fair summation of how most middle-level students view air and gases.

Changing the perception that "air is nothing" is one of my annual teaching missions. To begin, I set up a weeklong round-robin series of hands-on activities to help students understand the behavior and properties of gases. Students play with air-based toys; heat, cool, and compress gases; and create uneven air pressure to make implosions, explosions, and convection currents. I then have students use what they have observed in the activities to make inferences about processes such as wind, storms, Bernoulli's principle, and the operation of everyday devices such as tires, air bags, and life vests. We generate and test hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, and review the role of gases in respiration, photosynthesis, the water cycle, ozone depletion, and global climate change. To wrap up the unit students write diamante poems about air and gases.

This issue of Science Scope has activities you will want to add to your own collection of gas-related lessons. …

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