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Bubble-ology and Bernoulli Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-PHS000
Author: MaryAnne Nelson, Needham Elementary, Durango, CO Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9


  • Science/Physics

OVERVIEW: Bubbles are not only captivating, colorful, and fun to make, they are also excellent demonstrations of scientific phenomena. Bubble- ology is a motivating and powerful introduction to the process and substance of science.


The purpose of this activity is to introduce aerodynamics to the students by challenging them to devise the best ways to keep a bubble aloft. In this fun context, you’ll teach Bernoulli’s principle and help explain how airplanes fly.

OBJECTIVES: As a result of this activity, the students will:

  • Devise ways to keep a bubble from hitting the ground, without touching it with their hands or with any other object.
  • Students will make 2 lists: methods that worked, and those that didn’t work.
  • As a group, students will use their demonstrations to decide whether increasing the pressure under the bubble or decreasing the pressure over it keeps an object aloft.
  • RESOURCES/MATERIALS: 1 gallon container, 8 oz. dishwashing liquid, 1 measuring cup, 1 eyedropper, glycerin (optional), pint-sized containers, straws or other hollow tubes, index cards


    Bubble-ology, Teacher’s Guide, LHS-GEMS: Great Explorations in Math and Science, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley.


  • Prepare bubble solution: 1 cup dishwashing liquid, 50-60 drops glycerin (optional), 1 gallon water. Have small containers of the solution, and straws or other hollow tubes to blow the bubble with, put in various locations around the room.
  • Read: In the 18th century, a scientist named Daniel Bernoulli discovered a scientific principle that now carries his name. It became the basis for airplane flight many years after its discovery. The Bernoulli principle states that the faster air flows, the less pressure it exerts.
  • Draw a diagram of an airplane and an airplane wing on the chalkboard. Point out that as air hits the wings of a plane, some of it has to go over them and some of it has to go underneath. Scientists have discovered that regardless of whether the air goes over or under, it arrives at the other side of the wing at the same instant. What does the Bernoulli principle say about faster moving air?
  • Explain that the force pushing upward is called dynamic lift. Summarize by stating that there are two approaches to keeping an object aloft: increasing the pressure under it, or decreasing the pressure over it.
  • Divide your class into small groups. Ask the groups to experiment to devise methods to keep their bubbles from hitting the ground and list methods that work by increasing the pressure under the bubble, or by decreasing the pressure over it. You may distribute index cards and invite them to wave the cards over and under the bubbles to further demonstrate Bernoulli’s principle.

  • Students write a group report and share results of this activity, explaining which method worked and why.
  • Make or obtain posters of airplanes and airplane wings and post them around the classroom. Ask students to explain how the Bernoulli principle is incorporated into the design of each plane.
  • Set up a series of short bubble obstacle courses, including challenging features as steps, curves, corners, and a hoop.
  • Challenge students to use bubbles to detect air flow patterns in a room or outdoors.

  • May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.