Gas Laws Stations Lab

Gas Laws Stations Lab preview image with hand & pin poking balloon

I am always looking for fun, engaging and hand-on activities that I can use in my inclusion chemistry classroom. We are currently working on the Gas Laws Unit and I decided to set up a stations lab as a way to formatively assess where my students’ thinking is and how deeply they understand the concepts of pressure, volume and temperature effects on gas molecules. I began class by asking my students to draw a model to answer the following question, “If we could blow up a balloon with air and dye the gas inside, and then pop the balloon, what would we see?” I borrowed this idea from a post I saw years ago on Twitter from Katy Dornbos.

Figure 1: @katydornbos tweet 4/22/21



two samples of student work - models of what popping a balloon would look like on particulate level

Figure 2: Samples of student work

As I walked around the room to see how the students were progressing with their models, I asked them to keep in mind how they should represent the differences between solid, liquid and gas particles in regards to the spacing and attraction between the particles. After we talked about what students thought the gas molecules would look like if the balloon popped, I had my students stand up and do a gallery walk around the classroom. Gallery walks provide students with an opportunity to see what other specific details students included in their models, such as labels, squiggly lines for movement, arrows indicating direction or amount of energy. The students return to their seats and have an opportunity to update and revise their initial models to include any aspects they would like to. Once this activity was complete, I separated the students into six groups. I assigned each group one specific station where they had to determine the What, Why, When and How of their assigned phenomenon. 



See the six stations and sample student work:

Station #1 - Inverted balloon in flask

Put 20 mL of water in an Erlenmeyer flask, heat on a hot plate until water begins to boil, take off of the hot plate and place the balloon inverted over the opening. Wait for the flask to cool as the balloon opens inside the flask. 


Inverted balloon in flask demonstration

Station 1: Inverted balloon in flask demonstration set up



Sample student particulate level drawing of inverted balloon demonstration

Station 1: Sample student particulate level drawing of Inverted Balloon demonstration


Station #2 - Mini marshmallows in a syringe 

Place mini marshmallows inside of the empty syringe, cover opening at the bottom of the syringe with your finger and press down / pull up on the piston to observe changes to the marshmallow.


Close-up of mini marshmallow in a syringe

Station 2: Close-up of mini-marshmallow in a syringe set up



Sample student particulate model of Station 2 - Mini Marshmallows in a Syringe

Station 2: Sample student particulate model of Mini Marshmallows in a Syringe demo


Station #3 - Candle in water and graduated cylinder 

Cover the bottom of an open container with a layer of water, place a candle in the water in the middle of the container and light it with a lighter. Take a 100 mL graduated cylinder and place it over the burning candle.


Candle in water and graduated cylinder demo - before image and after image

Station 3: Candle in water and graduated cylinder demonstration set up



Sample student work - particulate drawing of Station 3 - Candle in Water & Graduated Cylinder

Station 3: Sample particulate drawing of Candle in Water & Graduated Cylinder demo


Station #4 - Crushing a soda can 

Measure 10 mL of water and pour it into an empty aluminum can, place the can on a hot plate. In a separate container, fill with cold water. Once you see steam coming out of the opening of the can and the water inside the can has come to a boil, use tongs to place the inverted can into the cold water bath. 


Crushing a soda can demo - crushed can in tub of water next to hotplate

Station 4: Crushing a soda can demonstration set up



Sample student work - Particulated model of Station 4 - Imploding Can demo

Station 4: Sample student particulate model of Imploding Can demo


Station #5 - Blowing up a balloon

I have seen this done two ways. One option is to mix baking soda and vinegar to fill the balloon. Another way is to put 20 mL of water into an Erlenmeyer flask and cover the opening of the flask with a balloon. Then place the flask on a hot plate and observe for a few minutes. 


Blowing up a balloon demo - balloon inflating over flask on hotplate

Station 5: Blowing up a balloon demonstration set up



Sample student work - Particulate model of Station 5 - Blow Up Balloon demo

Station 5: Sample student particulate model of Blow Up Balloon demo


Station #6 - Cartesian Diver

Using the end bulb of a plastic pipette, cut off the long tube extension and scotch tape something such as small hardware nuts to the bottom of the bulb that has enough weight to it to pull the bulb down (I used 2 nuts per side of the pipette bulb). Take a clean empty plastic bottle and fill it to the top with water. Place your cut pipette tip with the taped nuts inside the bottle and seal the cap tight. When someone presses on the middle of the bottle, the end of the plastic pipette sinks to the bottom of the bottle and rises back up when the pressure is released. There are many alternative methods of building a cartesian diver, so I suggest doing a quick online search to find the method that most appeals to you.


construction of cartesian diver - pipette, nuts, bottle and diver

Station 6: Cartesian Diver demonstration set up



Sample student particulate drawing of Station #6 - Cartesian Diver demo

Station 6: Sample student particulate drawing of Cartesian Diver demo


Once each station was set up, my students were given a poster board where they worked together to create a model illustrating each of the assigned phenomena. The students in each group spent time making observations, constructing an explanation of what and how this phenomenon occurred using their knowledge of what they learned until that point. While my students were engaging in their lab group assignment, I was checking in with each station and listening to their conversations, thought exchanges and possible misconceptions. Since this is an inclusion classroom, I am remind them to use the vocabulary words we have established for this unit, such as pressure, volume and temperature. The students excitedly filled their poster boards with their agreed upon consensus models of the Before, During and After each reaction. When all of the groups were done drawing their models on the poster boards, they repeated the demo of their assigned phenomenon for the other students in the class and then explained the scientific principles of the gas laws and their models to teach their classmates.

As evidence of overhearing my students talk during this activity, it was an entertaining and challenging way to interact with the content they were learning. Students make more meaningful connections when they are active participants in the learning process. This lab activity provided students with 504s and IEPs a way to deepen their understanding of the relationship between pressure, volume and temperature effects on gas molecules. During each group’s share out to their classmates, the students were able to give a much more detailed explanation of what caused their phenomenon. I think this activity provided the students with more confidence in their own level of understanding and assisted them in their sense making journey. The following week, my students took their assessment on Gas Laws and I was impressed at the level of detail these students’ used in their explanations. I think this was a very successful lesson and I hope you try it in your classroom. I can’t wait to hear how it goes! 




Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds.


Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. Use a model to predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system.

Assessment Boundary: