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  • Air has many interesting characteristics. It flows and spreads into spaces that are not already occupied. Air can be compressed, and it can also expand.

    This activity enables students to observe how the same amount of air can take up different amounts of space depending on the temperature (energy) of the air molecules.

    Science capabilities and key competencies

    The activity supports the development of the science capabilities and competencies as students:

    • draw diagrams to show their thinking
    • engage in discussion with peers using evidence to support their position
    • critique their own ideas and/or the ideas of others in terms of their validity and applicability.

    Throughout the discussion, teachers are encouraged to support critical student thinking and use questioning to develop increased use of evidence and scientific reasoning. Students may also develop questions for research or to check their thinking and understanding.

    In this activity, students explore the relationship between air density and volume by observing how air in a bottle expands when immersed in hot water and then contracts when the bottle is placed in cold water.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • draw a diagram showing what they observed during the activity
    • use the diagram to provide supporting evidence for their explanation of the phenomena
    • begin to understand that heat is a form of energy and that molecules with more energy occupy more space
    • begin to understand that increasing volume does not always equate to more particles of matter.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    Learn more about the nature and properties of air with the article Building Science Concepts: The air around us.

    Download the PDF Kuputaka Māori mō te hau takiwā – a glossary of kupu Māori that supports learning about air.

    The article Solids, liquids and gases explains how gases like air behave.

    The article Heat energy explains the flow of energy. Students can experience this transfer of heat energy while making ice cream.

    Related activity

    Investigating the push of air is a set of five simple activities that provide opportunities to observe the push of air and effects of air pressure.

      Published 8 November 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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