May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Kinetic Theory Lab

Posted: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

by Jeff Bradbury and Patricia Buchanan

Question: All of these individual experiments found in this lab relate to one another. In knowing this, what one property of gases is demonstrated in the following experiments?

Purpose: To develop a theory that explains why gases behave the way they do.

(The full unit with formatted worksheets can be found in PDF format on the CSTA website:

Procedure, Observations, and Data:

1. In this lab you will work in groups of three.  Go to each station (not necessarily in order) and follow the directions on the instruction card.  Take no more than 15 minutes per station.

2. Record observations and give a brief explanation for each station.

3. Draw a diagram (model) for each station showing it at the molecular level what the particles of gases are doing (black box diagram).


Station one:  Cartesian diver

Station two:  Fill inverted vial

Station Three:  Candle under beaker

Station four:  Boyle’s law apparatus

Station five:  can crush


Station one: Cartesian diver

Materials: Eye dropper and 2 liter bottle

Procedure: Can you make the eye dropper stay in the middle of the bottle?  Keep the bottom of the bottle on the table.  Make careful observations and describe what happens to the eye dropper.


How did you get the eye dropper to stay in the middle?

Station two:  Fill inverted vial

Materials: Tray of water (1 inch) and a vial and a syringe

Procedure: Can you fill the vial with water using the syringe?  You must not remove the mouth of the vial above the water level.


How did you get the water into the vial?

What did this station teach you about pressure?

Station Three:  Candle under beaker

Materials: Tray of water (1inch), a candle held up by clay, and a 150 ml beaker

Procedure: Light the candle, and then put the beaker over the candle


What happened to the water inside the beaker?

Explain your answer to the above question?  Why did the water do what it did?

Draw a diagram of what happens in the above experiment at the molecular level.

Station four:  Boyle’s law apparatus

Materials: Boyle’s Law apparatus, 15 books of uniform size

Procedure: Place a book on the apparatus and record the volume in your table.  Continue by adding one book at a time, recording data, until all of the books are on the syringe.


Data Table: make a table and record your data (pressure in books and volume in ml) into your notebook.

Table 1:         Changes in pressure and volume

What happens to the air molecules in the syringe?

What happens to the pressure inside the syringe?

Do you think the speed of the moving particles changes?

Graph 1: How gas volume changes with changes in pressure

U 25
mL 20
0 5 10 15 20

Pressure (Books)

What is the relationship between volume and pressure of a gas?

Make a sketch of your “Black Box” diagrams for the Boyle’s law apparatus.  Draw the apparatus before any books and after 12 books.  Show a diagram of what it would look like at the molecular level.

Station five: Can Crush


Safety goggles must be worn at all times

This part of the lab deals with a Bunsen burner, which should always be used with caution. Make sure the flame is not pointed directly at any person.  Follow directions on how to complete this part.  Be cautious: the water in the will be HOT!

Materials: Small hot plate, empty soda can, 1000 ml beaker, beaker tongs, cold water

Procedure: Put about 15-20 ml of water into the can and place it over the Bunsen burner using the beaker tongs.  When the water is boiling (you can hear it and you can see steam) very quickly stick the top of the can into the beaker of water so that the opening of the can is under water (the can should be upside down).


Explain what happened to the can.


Watch the demonstrations and record your observations and draw a diagram in the spaces provided.

Demonstration:  The Vacuum Pump

Observations & notes:

Demonstration: 4 Balloon and a flask

Draw a picture of what will happen to the balloon:

Draw a picture of what actually happened to the balloon:

Explain what happened to the balloon:

Questions and Answers:

Answer the questions that are on the instruction cards at each station.  Write the station number and title of each station before you answer the questions. After the responses to the questions at each station answer the questions below.

1. What causes pressure?

2. What are some ways to change pressure?

3. What happens to the pressure of a gas as you increase the temperature?

4. What happens to the volume of a gas as you change the pressure?

Conclusions and Reflections

What does the kinetic theory mean to you now?

Jeff Bradbury is a professor of chemistry at Cerritos College in Norwalk and is community college director for CSTA; Patricia Buchanan is the Cal Grip Grant Project Assistant at Cerritos College.  The original idea for this activity came from the Los Angeles County Office of Education 15 years ago, which the authors modified.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

5 Responses

  1. Great activities! Suggestion: Can Crush Activity — use a twist top “Monster” drink can.

    Where do you get inexpensive syringes(large)?

  2. There is no way that this could be done in a single 55 min. lab period. All of the experiments are valid. But should be done over several days. The can crush alone is interesting enough that most of a period could be devoted to it (including safety procedures.)

  3. The can crush is great, but I wouldn’t have students do it. I love it as a demo.
    Also, those old ditto master cans were the best for this demo.

  4. On number three, im not too sure what the point is. At one time it was believed that as oxygen was used up, the vol of the gas became less and the water rose. Even books published that. We now realize that the water rises because of cooling gas. I doubt that students will have the knowledge to make a valid conclusion here. The author suggests the students explain what is happening on a molecular level. Just what is expected here. No answer in the lab, so im wondering ————-

  5. One problem with labs like these is the assumption that the teacher knows where things are going. They are of little value without answers for the teacher.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.