Students explore the inhalation/exhalation process that occurs in the lungs during respiration. Using everyday materials, each student team creates a model pair of lungs.
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- Colorado: Science
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Describe the function of the respiratory system.
- Create a model of the lungs and explain what happens to them when you inhale and exhale.
- Give examples of engineering advancements that have helped with respiratory systems.
- 2-liter empty plastic bottle with cap
- 2 plastic drinking straws (available inexpensively at restaurant supply stores or donated by fast-food chains; do not use the flexible drinking straws)
- 2 9-inch balloons
- 1 larger balloon (for example, for a punch ball)
- 2 rubber bands
- Lung Worksheet, one per student
|The two large tubes connected to the trachea that carry air to and from the lungs.|
|A shelf of muscle extending across the bottom of the ribcage.|
|Spongy, saclike respiratory organs that occupy the chest cavity, along with the heart; provide oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide from it.|
Before the Activity
- Gather materials and make copies of the Lung Worksheet.
- Drill 2 holes (just big enough for a straw to fit through) in each of the caps of the 2-liter bottles. (Note: make sure to drill the holes far enough apart that the holes do not become one big hole!)
- Using a pair of scissors, cut off the bottoms of each of the 2-liter bottles.
With the Students
- Peel off the label, if any, on the 2-liter bottle.
- Tell students that the 2-liter bottle represents the human chest cavity.
- Stick the two straws through the two holes of the bottle cap.
- Place one 9-inch balloon on the end of each straw, and secure them with rubber bands, as shown in Figure 2.
- Tell students that the straws represent the bronchi and the balloons represent the lungs.
- Stick the balloon ends of the straws through the bottle opening and screw the lid on tightly.
- Stretch out the larger balloon and place it over the open bottom of the bottle.
- Tell students that this larger balloon represents the diaphragm. They now have a finished model of the lungs (see Figure 3); now it's time to make the lungs work!
- Pull the diaphragm (balloon) down (that is, away from the lungs) in order to inflate the lungs. (Note: This makes the chest cavity larger and decreases the pressure.)
- Push the diaphragm (balloon) in (towards the lungs) in order to deflate the lungs. (Note: This makes the chest cavity smaller and increases the pressure.)
- Have students complete the Lung Worksheet
- How do the lungs work? How do you inhale and exhale?
- Does your breathing change when you exercise? How?
Activity Embedded Assessment
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Diseases and Conditions Index, "How is Asthma Treated?" Accessed May 23, 2006. http://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/respiratory
U.S. National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program, Training Website, Bronchi, Bronchial Tree, and Lungs, "Bronchi and Bronchial Tree." Accessed May 23, 2006. http://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/respiratory/passages/bronchi.html
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia,com, Respiratory system. Accessed May 23, 2006. www.wikipedia.org
Teresa Ellis, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
© 2006 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: February 10, 2016