« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!

Need Help?

Is Air Matter? Mark as Favorite (10 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Observations, Physical Properties, Matter. Last updated January 16, 2020.


In this activity, students will conduct an investigation to discover whether or not air is a form of matter. Students will first gather data, and then make a claim. They will communicate their claim in writing, using their data to support their claim.

Grade Level

Elementary School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • 2-PS1-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.
  • 5-PS1-1: Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.
  • 5-PS1-3: Make observation and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this activity, students should be able to

  • Support a claim that air is matter using evidence gathered during an inquiry based student performance.
  • Explore properties of matter in order to prove that air is matter.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of

  • Matter
  • Properties of Matter
  • Physical Properties
  • Observations


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes

Lesson: 45-60 minutes


Suggestions per group (2-3 students):

  • 1 tape measure
  • 2 balloons
  • 1 straw
  • 1 plastic sandwich bag
  • 1 piece of string (about 1 foot long)


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This activity is designed to be a student inquiry where they go through 3 phases: Gather, Reason, and Communicate. Students gather their own data first, then the teacher and students work together to make sense of and evaluate their data. Finally, students communicate their findings in writing. This model incorporates all three dimensions of the NGSS into one student performance.
  • You will be providing students with various materials that can be used to gather their own evidence to answer the question: Is air matter?
  • Gather:
    • Review definition of matter. Have students provide multiple examples and write the list on the board.
    • Ask students how they can prove that each of those items is matter.
    • Present students with the guiding question, “How can we prove that air is matter?”
    • They will work to gather evidence in their group using the materials you provide to them. Try to step back and allow them to “figure it out.” Remind them to record their data and observations on the first part of the student sheet. Remind them that data can be pictures, descriptions, or numbers.
    • Essentially, you want students to determine that the bag takes up more space when filled up with air as opposed to when it is not filled up with air. Students might have data in the form of measurements, proving that the bag takes up more space once it is blown up with air. Students might draw pictures or a description to show this as well.
  • Reason:
    • This is where you help them to make sense of their data. Conduct a class discussion of their findings. How did you prove that air is matter? What are other ways that we can prove that air is matter?
    • Show students the provided slide show (titled: Is Air Matter?) and discuss how these pictures prove that air is matter.
    • Students may need to return to their groups to gather more concrete evidence at this point in time.
  • Communicate:
    • Independent Writing: Students answer the question “Is air matter? How can you prove that air is matter? ” in the space provided (or a science notebook if you choose) using sentences and diagrams.

For the Student


Background Knowledge:

  1. What is matter?
  2. How can we prove that something is matter?

Using the materials provided by your teacher, work with your group to gather evidence that you can use to prove that air is matter. There is not just one correct answer. Use what you have learned and be sure to record your data! Your data may be diagrams, measurements, and/or descriptions. Use the space below to record your data.


Your teacher will lead a class discussion. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

  1. How did you prove that air is matter?
  2. What are other ways that we can prove that air is matter?

Notes: Pay close attention to the class discussion and the slide show! Take notes in the space below.



Communicate your findings in paragraph form to answer the guiding question. “How can we prove that air is matter?”

Cite evidence you gathered as well as any additional information from your class discussion. Use complete sentences and be as detailed as possible.