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Lesson 5:  “A Weighty Problem” and  “The Balloon Trick”, from Wild About Weather


Objectives:  After completing this lesson, students will be able to:


Key Question:  How does air's weight and pressure affect its movement?


Overview: Here are two small lessons to give students some concrete experience of weight and pressure of air.  You can do them both in one period and still hope to have some time left over.  They are good precursors for readings and activities about air masses, high and low-pressure areas, and wind.


Time Required:  20-40 min



·        balloons for each person

·        2 large balloons of equal size

·        2 yardsticks

·        string

·        pin

·         books or other weights

·        (optional for discussion) Prentice Hall transparency: #56 Density at Two Altitudes


Procedure:  See pp. 11 in Ranger Rick’s NatureScope: Wild About Weather


Assessment:  Class discussion


OUSD Science Content Standards (State of California Science Content Standards):



References: National Wildlife Federation, Ranger Rick’s NatureScope, Wild About Weather. Triangle Learning Triangle Press, An Imprint of McGraw-Hill, New York, 1989, 1998.


Notes:  The balloon balancing demonstration can be done quickly with a little preparation. I like to hang the meter stick balance beam from some ceiling fixture so that the whole class can easily see it.  When you have the balloons roughly balanced on the beam, tape each string to the beam with a small piece of masking tape.  You can fine-tune the balance by adding a few pieces of tape to one end of the meter stick.  It also helps to have a few more inflated balloons at the ready to repeat the demonstration.

A more accurate conclusion from the demonstration is that the compressed air inside the balloon weighs more than the uncompressed air around it.


After the kids have done the little balloon rocket activity, I like to keep a few balloons on the chalk tray and blow one up and release it every time we discuss wind and air pressure.