← Trailblazers

January 9, 2018

All things Air Pressure

What is climate, what causes it to change, and how are regional climates determined?

Our latest unit on Earth’s Systems is being driven by these Essential Questions, and we have been having a lot of fun exploring them. We have spent time exploring energy from the Sun and how it is used to heat the Earth. We have also practiced modeling the uneven heating of the Earth, and explored what affect it has on climate in different regions. Our latest explorations are around air pressure and the movement of air masses in the atmosphere. The students are working towards being able to predict the weather based on the movement of air masses. To begin this section of our unit, we spent a day exploring air pressure and what it can do.

Each homeroom was able to travel to all four teachers and engage in different experiments around the idea of air pressure and what it is capable of. We worked to understand that air particles are around us, even though we can’t see them, and effected by the force of Gravity.

In Mrs. Nix’s room, students created vacuum chambers with plastic syringes. Using mini marshmallows, we were able to see the effects of high and low pressure. This is a very simple experiment and so much fun!

Student excitedly discovering how the vacuum chamber works Two female students exploring a vacuum chamber together Student using her finger to close off air flow and create a vacuum chamber Two students working together to explore what air pressure can do to a marshmallow

With Mr. Whitman, students tested their air capacity by attempting to blow up a balloon inside of an “empty” bottle. This is much harder than it sounds! The bottle already contains air particles, so the balloon has no way to expand within the bottle. The air pressure in the bottle becomes so great, it is actually quite difficult to inflate the balloon even a little bit.

In Mrs. Bartell’s classroom students learned a “magic trick”! By placing a paper towel in the bottom of a glass and submerging the glass in a tub of water, holding it vertically, you can keep the paper towel dry. The realization that air within the cup is able to hold water away from the paper towel is pretty amazing.

A student submerging his cup in water, wondering if the paper towel will stay dry.

Excited students as they discover their paper towel is still dry

Mrs. Snyder set up the last air pressure experiment with “floating cardboard”. Using a glass half full of water and a piece of cardboard, students were amazed! The magnetism of the water, along with lowered pressure within the glass, keep the cardboard in place. The air pressure outside of the glass is greater than within, therefore the cardboard is held in place. Pretty amazing! I think they all thought Mrs. Snyder had lost it when she said they should flip a glass of water over in her classroom!

Student showing off his hovering cardboard Two students amazed by their hovering cardboard Two students amazed by their hovering cardboard A group of students excitedly observe their hovering cardboard experiment

Our knowledge of the air around us and how Earth’s systems work to create Weather and Climates has been very exciting. We are looking forward to a lot more inquiry around this concept.