Air Is All Around Us!

By Catherine Macaulay, December 31, 2008

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Science

Lesson Time

2 Class Periods


Air is all around us!  Often this is a hard concept for young students to accept as it does not have color or smell.  In this lesson students will be drawing on their factual understanding of air to design something to prove that in fact air IS all around us!

National Standards


  • Students will connect their prior factual understanding of air to their air design.
  • Students will brainstorm, design, and create something that proves that air is all around us.
  • Students will present their design.
  • Students will incorporate student and teacher feedback into their design.


  • Branley, Franklyn M.  Air is All Around You.  New York: Harper Collins Publishing, 1986.
  • Howe, Jane Moore. Amelia Earhart, Young Air Pioneer.  Indiana: Patria Press, 1999.
  • Priceman, Marjorie.  Hot Air: The Mostly True Story of the First Hot Air Balloon Ride. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005.
  • NASA for Kids Only


  • 2 tissues/paper towels
  • double-sided tape
  • 2 clear cups (one with a hole in the bottom, one without a hole)
  • clear container filled with water
  • chart paper and markers
  • handouts
  • pencils
  • found materials from home or around school
  • glue gun
  • tape (masking, duck, packaging)
  • string
  • balloons


Prior to this lesson it is important to establish that air is all around us and that humans require air to live.  It is important to have students interact with the air.  Capture it is bags or balloons to experience what it looks, feels, sounds, and smells like.  It is also important to show that air has mass and takes up space.  Though these are important foundational facts, most students will still not be convinced that air is indeed surrounding us at all times. Day One: Motivation and Review: 1.  To help the students recall their information about air, conduct a short demonstration.  Show the students the materials: cups, paper towel, and container of water. 2.  Ball up a small piece of paper towel or tissue. Using double sided tape attach the towel or tissue to the inside bottom of the plastic cup without a hole. 3.  Fill a container with enough water to submerge the cup.  Ask, “What will happen to the paper towel when the cup is dunked upside down in the water?” Have students share their responses. 4.  Hold the bottom of the plastic cup. Submerge the plastic cup in the water, open end down. 5.  Pull the cup out of the water and have students inspect the tissue or paper towel.  The towel should be dry.  Ask, “Why did the paper towel remain dry?”  Students should be able to recall basic information about air (it is all around us and takes up space). 6.  Repeat the experiment using the cup with the hole in the bottom. Ask, “What will happen to the paper towel when this (show students the hole) cup is dunked upside down in the water?” 7.  Once the cup is out of the water, have students inspect the paper towel.  Ask, “Why did the paper towel get wet this time?” (The air escaped out of the hole therefore water was able to fill the space that the air originally occupied.) 8.    Ask, “Where is air?”  Create a group list/brainstorm list of all the places that air exists, further reinforcing that air is all around us.  This chart can remain in the room and be added to. Design Challenge: 1.  Say, “You are all designers.  You have been asked to create something that can prove that air is all around us.” 2.  Show the students the found materials and community supplies that they will be invited to incorporate into their designs. 3.  Place the students into small groups to brainstorm design ideas.  Reinforce that all ideas in a brainstorm are great ideas and that brainstorm ideas do not have to be practical or doable. 4.  Give each small group a piece of chart paper and a marker.  Say, “Keep track of ALL of the group’s ideas.” 5.  Once the groups have had ample time to discuss, collect the chart papers and hang them in a visible area.  Have the groups share a few of their ideas. 6.  Explain that now each student will be brainstorming and creating his or her own invention to prove that air is all around us. 7.  Distribute the AIR handout (see attached sheet).  Say, “You will have time to brainstorm your own ideas and choose ideas from the group brainstorms.  Then you will choose one of those ideas to actually create.”  Make sure you give students a fair time limit. 8.  Say, “Your completed AIR sheet is your ticket to build.”  Orient the students to the areas of the room designated for building and testing. Have them spend the rest of the time working on their inventions. Day Two: Present and Reflect: 1.  Say, “Today you will present your design to the class and get feedback from your teachers and peers.  You will then have a short time to change your design if you think it is necessary to prove that air is all around us.” 2.  Say, “During your presentation, you will need to tell us the name of your design and how it proves that air is all around us.  Then you will have a chance to take questions and comments from the class.”  **At some point, reinforce rules about making and asking positive, constructive comments and questions. 3.  The students will fill out self-evaluations following the presentations. 4.  After the students have presented keep their designs on display to share with the community.


  • The teacher will listen to and observe students as they work in small groups and individually.
  • The teacher will ask students questions about their designs including, “How will this prove that air is all around us?”
  • The teacher will evaluate the students using a rubric.
  • The students will evaluate themselves using a self-assessment.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students can create a historical timeline of air inventions (hot air balloon, airplane, hair dryer etc).
Students can present their designs to a class of kindergartners teaching them about basic principles of air.
Students can explore how scientists capture air for experiments and research.
Students can explore how their designs would operate in a vacuum, in space?

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