Air Is Matter

Caroline Sorensen
Greenbush Middle River High school
Greenbush, Minnesota
Based on an original activity from Teacher's Domain Web Site.
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It's difficult at times for younger students to realize that air has mass. Matter is something that has volume (takes up space) and has mass (*can be weighed). Air does take up space, even if we can't see it, and air has weight, even if we can't feel it -- and both of these properties can be observed and measured.

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Learning Goals

-Describe air as something that takes up space and has mass (as expressed by weight)
-Observe that air exerts pressure (presses on the things around it)

Vocabulary: Solids, Liquids, Gases, mass, weight

Context for Use

This is a series of investigative labs and a field exercise that can be easily adapted and conducted with common materials appropriate for kindergarten through second grade. Activities could be used for older elementary students as well. Time required for all activities would be 60-90 minutes and can be divided up at the teacher's discretion.

Description and Teaching Materials

We will begin by showing pictures that show how air influences things such as balloons, bubbles, breathing, wind, etc.
From there we will go on an air walk, with students using their senses to find evidence of air and its influences. Students will explore and be challenged to pour air in a cup underwater to another cup. The last activity will show that air can exert pressure through force by lifting various objects using plastic bags.

Air Is Matter (Microsoft Word 39kB Aug28 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Carefully monitor students in the presence of plastic bags for proper handling and usage.


Discussion and questions during activities. At end of all activities asking students what they would say to someone who thinks that an inflated balloon is empty. Have them discuss this in pairs and report back to the class. (reflective reasoning based on what they have learned about air and its properties)


Structure of Matter
1. The student will understand that objects can be sorted and classified based on their properties.
2. The student will classify a substance as a solid, liquid or gas.
3. The student will know that solids have a definite shape and that liquids take the shape of their container.

References and Resources