Investigation: What Factors Affect Lung Capacity

worksheetIn this investigation, students use balloons and rulers to estimate the vital capacity of lungs using test subjects within the class.  To perform the test, subjects take a deep breath and blow into a balloon.  The diameter is measured and a graph is used to estimate the volume of air expelled based on the diameter of the balloon.

*Peak flow spirometers can be purchased for this activity;  balloons and tape measures are cheaper alternatives.

This investigation requires students to develop a hypothesis about what factors have the greatest effect on lung capacity.  Variables such as age, weight, height, sex, and activity level are considered.

In addition to data taken from balloon measurements, students can use a vital capacity calculator online which considers height, sex, and age to determine the approximate lung capacity of the individual.

Though results with such a small sample size are likely to be inconsistent, the calculator reveals that the most important factors are height and sex, which correlates directly with the size of the chest cavity. Most students will conclude that the larger the person is, the greater their lung capacity.

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Grade Level:  9-12
Time Required:  30-45 min

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