January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

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: http://www.cascience.org/csta/pdf/CoolChem_kinetictheory.pdf.

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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Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. 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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. 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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.