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Becky McCoy

Lesson Title: Lung Capacity Timing: 44 minutes

Target Audience:
7th grade general science course

Students Will Be Able To:
• Use scientific procedures to determine their lung capacity
• Determine their lung capacity using data they collect
• Compare their lung capacity with other students and conclude why the differences exist

The Teacher Will Be Able To:

• Give students enough scaffolding to be able to complete the task with little guidance
• Determine student ability to apply mathematical concepts to learning
• Guide discussions about lung capacity

Standards Assessed: New York State Standards for Middle School Science
Performance Indicator 1.2: Explain the functioning of the major human organ systems and their interactions.
1.2b Tissues, organs, and organ systems help to provide all cells with nutrients, oxygen,
and waste removal.
1.2dDuring respiration, cells use oxygen to release the energy stored in food. The respiratory system
supplies oxygen and removes carbon dioxide (gas exchange).

Misconception(s) Addressed: n/a

Prior Knowledge: Circulatory, Respiratory Unit, and beginning of Digestive Unit

Aim: Experimentally discover your lung capacity.

Concept Map Vocabulary: n/a

Necessary Preparation:
• What’s My Lung Capacity? Worksheet

• Balloons
• String
• Rulers
• Calculators
• Scissors

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• Cut string lengths before class begins

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Lesson Plan

Aim: Experimentally discover your lung capacity.

Physics Push-Up: Free Write (4 minutes)

What is your lung capacity? Do you have the same lung capacity as a small child? As an adult?

Activity: What is Your Lung Capacity? (35 minutes)

• Balloons
• String
• Rulers
• Calculators
• Scissors
• What’s My Lung Capacity? Worksheet


Ask students to define lung capacity (the amount of air your lungs can hold). Have a discussion about the free
• What do you think about changing lung capacity?
• What are ways you can increase your lung capacity?
• Why is it good or bad to have a large lung capacity?

Explain the procedure for the activity and model as you speak:
1. Take a big breath in and blow all that air into the balloon.
2. Hold the balloon closed and have your partner measure the circumference of the balloon with the
3. Carefully let the air out of the balloon.
4. Measure the length of string along the ruler.
5. Next, we’re going to calculate the volume of your balloon since it will tell us the volume of air
your lungs can hold.

Show the two equations below and explain the variables:

Circumference = 2π radius

Volume = 4/3π r3

“We are going to use the circumference to solve for the radius. Then we can use the radius to find the volume.”

NOTE: Be sure to emphasize order of operations with the calculator for the Circumference equation: Typing
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C/2π will give the answer for C divided by 2 and that entire thing multiplied by π . The easiest way to explain
it is to divide C by 2 and then divide again by π .

Hand out one balloon per partnership and have them calculate the lung capacity for one partner. Once this is
complete, the partners should turn in the balloon in exchange for another and the process is repeated for the
other partner.

Activity Summary: Free Write (5 minutes)

Students should answer each of the following questions:
• Describe what you did with you partner.
• Did your results surprise you?
• What would you have done differently?
• What did you learn?


Exit Strategy:
Hand in final balloons and worksheets.

Extension Activity:
Allow students who finish early to look at Microviewer slides of the Respiratory System. They should draw and
explain what they see in their notebooks.

• Worksheets
• Free write responses
• Questions and discussions throughout the class


Notes & Adaptations:

NAME ______________________________________________ CLASS ___________ DATE _______________
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What’s My Lung Capacity?

Before beginning, choose who will be which role and write the name down:

• PARTNER 1 (____________________): Blow the balloon first.

• PARTNER 2 (____________________): Measure the balloon first.

☐ STEP 1: Partner 1 should take a big breath and blow up the balloon. NO SNEAKING A 2ND BREATH!!
☐ STEP 2: Partner 2 will wrap the string around the circumference of the balloon and measure it along the
☐ STEP 3: Both partners should calculate Partner 1’s lung capacity using the following equations in the
space below:
Circumference = 2π r
Volume = (4/3)π r3
☐ STEP 4: Repeat the process by switching roles.