by Connect Staff
We know Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone, but he was also an educator, among many other occupations. He believed that children should observe, discuss and discover things for themselves. Busy with his own research, he took time to design projects and demonstrations to arouse children's curiosity, often focusing on physical science.
This investigation uses a deep pie plate and a glass jar (a one quart canning jar works well). Bell suggests that liquids can tell us something about atmospheric pressure. He writes, "Drop a lighted piece of paper into an empty bottle. Turn the bottle over quickly and place it mouth down in the dish filled with water."
What children are likely to observe, he says, is that, "As the paper burns, the oxygen in the bottle is consumed. As a result, the water rises inside the bottle to replace the oxygen and maintain air pressure inside the bottle at the same level as the atmospheric pressure outside the bottle."
Try this as a demonstration in a controlled setting. A small group of students at one time is ideal. Your students surely will have questions about what is happening and you may, too! If you cannot light matches in school, this can be done outdoors. Are there other ways your students can discover to explore atmospheric pressure?
Our thanks go to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site ( http://fortress.uccb.ns.ca/parks/agbpla_e.html) in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada. Several of Bell's experiments for children are described in Search for Yesterday, published by Baddeck Public Library in 1981.
Connect Staff- Synergy Learning has a small dedicated staff of educators with experience both in the classroom and staff development.