Understanding the Science of Air Overview:
Teaching children about air can be a difficult task since air is relatively invisible. In fact, one of the few times that air is truly noticeable is when it is in the form of wind. This, however, does not mean that air should not be a viable topic in your classroom or home; it simply means that you need to be a bit more inventive in the activities that you choose.
Learning about air and its properties is an early lesson on physics. It can lead to many other subjects, including eco-conscious topics or even the topic of gravity and will open up a child’s existing vocabulary more than many other topics that we teach children.
Children will begin to understand the world around them and how it is affected by air. It will build skills and processes that are used during physics at a later age and will help with problem solving more abstract questions.
It will help children understand the properties of air and will open up opportunities to learn about other gases, such as carbon dioxide, and scientific topics, such as gravity.
Understanding the Science of Air is an excellent lesson in itself but it can also be used as a lead in to other science, weather and “eco-conscious” topics.
Did you know that air is all around you and without it there wouldn’t be any life on Earth?
Air is the gas that floats all around you and makes up our atmosphere. We can’t see it, since it is made up of colorless gases and although we usually can’t feel it, air is always touching us.
Some of the gases that make up the air around us are oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. All of these gases combine to give us air and it is what we breathe in to our lungs.
Although we can’t see air, it is all around us and it fills up spaces. This is actually called volume, and is similar to liquids. If you have a glass of water, you have a volume of water. Pour out that water and you will be replacing the volume of water with a volume of air. Since air has a volume, it is able to exert pressure on objects, like us.
We constantly have air pushing against us but we cannot feel it because our own body presses back against the air. One of the few times that you can actually feel air pressure is when it is windy. This is when you can actually feel air and see its effects. It is being forced against us and the pressure of the air will cause our hair to move or our clothes to stick to us or the trees to sway.
We can also feel air when it heats up and cools down and it is one of the reasons why we feel different temperatures. During the day, the sun will heat the air, which gives us warmer temperatures and hot days. At night, when the sun has gone down, the air begins to cool down.
Scientists have learned how to use air and its volume and pressure for many different things, including flying planes. Air is also used for many different reasons. It can be used to push objects across a surface, such as a sail on a sail boat, and it can be used to create electricity with a windmill. Astronauts wear special suits that are filled with air when they are in space since there is no air in outer space.
Everything on Earth needs air to live, even plants and animals. In fact, most of our air, and specifically oxygen, comes from plants. So although we are not aware of air all the time, it is always there and all you need to do is take in a deep breath to see that it is still around you.
Books that encourage learning:
Regardless of the topic, there are always several books that not only encourage learning but also put your lesson into a more manageable context. Air is a hard subject to grasp; it is an invisible presence around us and despite all the best experiments, it has an imaginary quality to it.
When you begin any project with preschoolers, it is better to start with a book or several books to start explaining the concepts. Providing books that give a question and an answer that children can further explore, is an excellent way to promote learning.
With air, there are several books available but I would strongly recommend the following:
Air Is All Around You by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by John O’brien. It covers air and how it is around us and also has a few easy activities to do with your children in both the classroom and the home.
If We Could See the Air by David T. Suzuki and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. This is a book that not only covers air but also how air affects the world around us.