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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.