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Weight Lifter - An air pressure experiment 


Earlier this year, my class was taking part in a science unit on air and weather. For the school science fair, I decided to teach a lesson on air pressure. 

Created by Katy Gustafson
Location: PS 40 in District 16
Grade: 1st grade
Subject: Science

If you have any questions regarding this activity, please contact Katy at: katygus@earthlink.net

  • To discover whether or not air had the strength to lift heavy objects. 
  • To learn and gain cooperative learning and group skills.
  • Clear plastic fruit and vegetable or bread bags.
  • Regular sized drinking straws
  • A box of heavy books
  • An experiment sheet (see below)


  1. Each team created a hypothesis about what they thought would happen
    if the air was blown in the bags and the writer/drawer recorded it on the experiment sheet (they all thought the air would NOT be strong enough to lift the books).
  2. The class was divided into four teams of five students each. Each member of the team had a job:

    • 1 person to take notes and fill out the experiment sheet
    • 1 person to be the straw blower
    • 1 person to be the "getter" (bring all the supplies to their team members)
    • 2 people as observer/reporters

  3. Each team received their materials: a plastic bag that was tied shut at the end with a straw poking through (I put the end of the straw in the bag, and wrapped scotch tape around it to seal it. This works fairly well, although bags will occasionally fly off), a box of heavy books, and an experiment sheet on which they had to record their findings. 
  4. I explained that the bag had to be placed on the table with just the straw hanging off the edge. The box of books would be placed on the bag and when I said, "Go," they had to blow into the straw to see if the air from their lungs could lift the box of books. 
  5. The getters got the supplies and we set up the experiment. When I said, "Go," all of the blowers began to blow. To their surprise, all of the boxes of books were lifted off the table. The observer/reporters took turns explaining what happened and the writer/drawers recorded the results. 


We discussed what happened in the experiment, and talked about other ways that we see the strength of air. An example I gave to the class was that heavy cars are supported by the strength of the air in their tires.

My class loved this experiment and they learned a lot from it. By cooperative learning I mean children working in small groups with each other (working cooperatively). They need to be able to equally share responsibilities, discuss their predictions and findings with each other and come to a consensus. The students were able to work together very well in their teams. I think that part of what made the group work so effective was that each person had an individual job within the team. This enabled them to feel that they were doing something important on their own, while working successfully in a group. To top it all off, we won first place in the first grade division of the science fair at our school, and second place in the district!

Experiment Sheet:  Weight Lifter

Question: Is air pressure strong enough to lift heavy objects?

Procedure: Wrap the opening of a plastic bag snugly around the end of a straw. Put the bag on a table with the straw hanging off the edge. Put a stack of heavy books on top of the bag. Blow air from your lungs into the bag. If air pressure has strength, it will lift the books. If air pressure does not have strength, the books will stay flat on the table.

Hypothesis: What do you think will happen to the books when you blow air into the bag?

Conduct the experiment.

Draw a picture of what you observed.

Outcome and Conclusions: 
What happened?


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