The Force of Air

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SWBAT describe the force of air.

Big Idea

Air can wreak havoc with windstorms and erosion, so let's experiment with it!

Teacher Preparation

This lesson is designed to introduce students to the force of air by showing pictures of the impact air has on a large scale and then giving students an opportunity to interact with air on a smaller scale during an investigation. Afterwards, the students discuss what they discovered and connect it back to force and motion. This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.P.1.2, Explain how some forces can be used to make things move without touching them. Click for an Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question. The Essential Question is explained in the Warm Up Section.

It is important for first graders to learn about the force of air in this unit because air becomes really important as students progress to second grade and learn about weather and wind with the Essential Standards. If they begin to understand that air can be forceful and change the lives of humans in first grade, they will have background knowledge when they begin to learn about how wind functions in second grade. 


 *Internet & Youtube

*1 box (shoeboxes work well!) per 2 students (Preparation: In each box, put about 1/4 cup of sand)

*1 straw per student

*1 pair safety goggles per student

*Additional materials to test: cotton balls, pipe cleaners cut into fourths, foam pieces, wooden balls.

*1 each of The Force of Air Recording Sheet or The Force of Air Recording Sheet


Warm Up

10 minutes

To start this lesson, I say,

"We have discussed lots of forces - pushes, pulls, and some unseen forces. Today, we are talking about the unseen force of air which is sometimes wind when we talk about weather. Who can think of a good essential question for today about the force of air?"

I am framing this essential question in this way because I want my students to develop a question based on the force of air - that is what the lesson is about! However, developing their own scientific questions is an important skill and increases their interest in the lesson, and I use it as a wrap-up as well. Asking scientific questions based on observations to find out more about the natural world supports Science and Engineering Practice 1, so doing that with teacher support is appropriate in this type of structured lesson so students learn how to ask questions.

I show this video of a sandstorm in the desert because it shows several scenes that have an impact directly on humans (the video repeats at about 1:15). It also shows the perspective of the size of the sandstorm with cars and houses in the pictures. I chose not to use a type of air disturbance that occurs close to our home on purpose because I do not want my students to worry about it happening to us!

After the video, I say,

"How does the air impact the people in the video? That means, how is their life different because of the sandstorm?"

It is important that my students understand the the force of air can impact human lives as well as inanimate objects (like with erosion). Using firsthand observations from media to describe and explain natural patterns and relationships supports Science and Engineering Practice 4. Engaging in discussion about their observations supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.


20 minutes

For the investigation, students get 1 box of sand per 2 students and they each get their own straw (see the Teacher Preparation for how to get the boxes ready!). I say,

"For your investigation, you are going to see what you can do with the force of air. Now,  because you are using sand today and it can get in your eyes we need to be safe and wear safety goggles. While you are working with the sand, please wear them so the sand does not blow into your eyes or your partner's eyes. This is what you are going to do. In your box, you have a little bit of sand and you each have a straw. You are going to take turns at first trying to get the sand to move around the box. Then, try to do it together. Write down what you discover on your recording sheet. After a few minutes, I am going to change what is in your box. Remember to record your discoveries so we can discuss it afterwards - and remember, this investigation is about the force of air and not water or your fingers!"

The recording sheet is fairly simple today, so I go over it quickly and show where to write the material and the outcome. Since this is more of a discovery investigation than a planned investigation, I designed the recording sheet to be more open-ended in order to see what my students discover on their own!

Then, we are ready to investigate the force of air! As my students work, I make sure they are using their goggles and recording their discoveries. After a few minutes, I add different materials to their boxes such as cotton balls, pipe cleaners, and other things that they may or may not be able to move with the force of air. Conducting an investigation collaboratively to serve as the basis for answering a question supports Science and Engineering Practice 3. Recording data from our investigation support Science and Engineering Practice 4. After about 15 minutes,  I ask everyone to close their box and bring their journals and pencils to the carpet for a discussion.


10 minutes

After everyone is settled back on the carpet, I say,

"Who has a discovery to share?"

I let the students take over the discussion and just share what they learned about the force of air. This is important as first grade scientists because it shows that I value their work and that their peers do, as well. After everyone has shared, I bring us back to the essential question from today and I say,

"Who can answer today's question based on your investigation? What kind of force can air have?"

After a few students answer, we end the lesson for today. Communicating ideas based on observations and ideas supports Practice 8 and using notes and written data to assist in that communication supports Practice 4.