STEM Respiratory System Investigation Asthma versus Healthy

What does it mean to have asthma? How do healthy lungs function compared to sick lungs? These are the questions my 8-year-old wanted to investigate today. This STEM Respiratory System Investigation was a great discovery of what can stop our lungs from working properly. We compared lungs with asthma to healthy lungs and talked about some other lung infections and how they can affect our bodies.

STEM Respiratory System Investigation. Learn how the healthy lungs work, plus the effect that asthma and other lung infections affect our breathing.

Materials we used during our STEM Respiratory Investigation.

2 Small plastic bags

2 Paper straws

1 Wider plastic straw

Scissors

Washi tape (regular clear tape would also work)

Hot glue gun & glue stick

Books about the body

A simple STEM investigation about the lungs. Demonstrating healthy lungs and sick lungs.

STEM investigations have always been Jaida’s desire. Whether we do a formal investigation or she is solving a question on her own, she wants to know how things work. I love her natural curiosity!

This was a child-led activity. She developed the question, the plan, and determined the results. I was there as support, but she totally took the lead on this. That is the true desire of STEM lessons. Getting kids to ask and investigate their questions.

What she did:

During lunch we opened up some books about the human body. Jaida was convinced that because she had sat in our her older sister’s lessons of the human body several years ago, that she knew everything there was to know and didn’t need to study it anymore. So, I started pointing out some details of the respiratory system that she was looking at.

She turned the page to the circulatory system and that is where the big questions began. Why is there “water” flowing to the heart? The book was showing a blue liquid flowing to the heart and a red liquid flowing away from the heart.

So we learned about how our bodies take in oxygen and inside the lungs the oxygen is added to our blood.

A simple STEM investigation about the lungs. Demonstrating healthy lungs and sick lungs.

She flipped back to the respiratory system and began investigating closer. She noticed little flap on the page that talked about how asthma causes the tubes in lungs to swell on the inside and air can’t get through.

I mentioned that my step-mom has asthma. 

Then, she decided that she wanted to make some lungs and show what it is like when a person has asthma.

First she wanted to put lungs in a box, but couldn’t figure out how.

Then she decided to try a paper bag. She assembled her lungs, but found that they were too large for her to demonstrate. It took about 5 big breaths for her to fill them up.

I had some small plastic bags, so she decided to use those instead.

To create the lungs: 

We cut the tops off the small plastic bags and inserted a paper straw into each one. We had to tape the straw to the bag on the inside to keep it from slipping out. Then she tightly wrapped some tape around the bag to make it like a lung with bronchial tubes.

She did that to both bags and then pushed both of the paper straws into a larger plastic straw. Her exact words when I asked if she needed help: “No mom, I want to do this myself.” Yes, ma’am!

A simple STEM investigation about the lungs. Demonstrating healthy lungs and sick lungs.

She added a small piece of tape around the end of the larger straw to secure it in place and trimmed it down, so it wasn’t so long.

A simple STEM investigation about the lungs. Demonstrating healthy lungs and sick lungs.

Then, she blew into the straw.

The bags inflated a bit, but not very well and she realized that air was escaping out the bottom of the large straw and decided to add more tape.

Lung-investigation4

Then she tested it out again.

Exhale. (She sucked the air out of the “lungs”)

STEM Respiratory System Investigation. Learn how the healthy lungs work, plus the effect that asthma and other lung infections affect our breathing.

Inhale. She breathed into the ‘lungs’.

STEM Respiratory System Investigation. Learn how the healthy lungs work, plus the effect that asthma and other lung infections affect our breathing.

Then, she took the paper bag set she had created and added some hot glue to the opening of the larger straw. I would have advised doing it to the smaller straws, but she was in charge.

STEM Respiratory System Investigation. Learn how the healthy lungs work, plus the effect that asthma and other lung infections affect our breathing.

Then, she tried blowing again and realized that no air was going into the lungs. And we had our discovery!

When our bronchial tubes aren’t working, we don’t get air.

STEM Respiratory System Investigation. Learn how the healthy lungs work, plus the effect that asthma and other lung infections affect our breathing.

We talked about how other sicknesses like pneumonia can also prevent us from getting enough air.

Ways to extend the activity:

Do more research on the respiratory system by watching videos, finding apps about the human body or doing a web search.

Take and print pictures of the lung investigation. Label parts of the lungs that were demonstrated.

Show sicknesses like pneumonia by adding water inside the lungs. Or smoker’s lungs by adding a thicker substance.

Type a conclusion to the investigation and print it to save in a science journal.

Planning for an All About Me Theme? We’ve done all the work for you!

We now have interactive thematic lesson plans for toddlers (18-35 months) AND preschoolers (3-5 years)! Get ready for fun and learning with unit lesson plans for your ALL ABOUT ME THEME. Explore a variety of themed hands-on activities! Easy to follow lesson plans include activity modifications and adaptations to meet the needs of all learners. For more information, click on the graphics below:

All About Me Toddler Lesson Plans
All About Me Toddler Lesson Plans

What ways can you think of to extend this STEM Respiratory System Investigation? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

DIY lungs STEM investigation asthma experiment featured image

The Early Elementary Blogging Team is sharing some great ideas for learning about the body (or using the body to learn!) Be sure to check it out!

What’s Inside Your Blood – An Edible Model from Preschool Powol Packets

Human Body Printables for Kids from Living Life and Learning

Telling the Time – Body Clock from Rainy Day Mum

Human Body Games for Kids from The Natural Homeschool

5 Senses Unit from 123 Homeschool 4 Me

Hands-On Learning about Taste Buds from Look! We’re Learning!

Bones from Sugar Aunts

Human Body Math from Planet Smarty Pants

Parts of the Eye Painting from Still Playing School

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5 Comments

  1. It can be really hard for kids to visualize how the body works. This is a great demonstration. Do you know of any other demonstrations for primary school biology?

  2. This is genius! I shall have to try it with my 4 year old. Pls do link up at Practical Mondays! Would love to see your posts there 🙂

  3. This is such a fun activity! I loved the colors you used for the tape (my daughter pointed that out) and how this is a STEM activity.