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AIR & 

climate change

Activity 6 (Explore): Atmosphere in a Jar

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Activity Summary

In this activity, students investigate what the most common elements and compounds in the atmosphere are by digging into an atmospheric “soup” of molecules. They use ratios and proportional reasoning to relate the finding from their investigation to the atmosphere as a whole.

Activity Objectives & Materials

Approximate Time: 45-60 minutes



  • Students will know what gases make up Earth’s atmosphere and in what proportions

  • Students will use sampling and quantitative analysis to estimate the composition of a mixture


Materials (see activity for details on these materials)

  • One apple (any kind)

  • Apple peeler (optional)

  • Beans for Atmosphere in a Jar (see teacher handout)

  • Chart paper & markers (optional)

  • One large, clear container

  • Small cups – enough for one per student group

  • Calculators

  • Atmosphere in a Jar Teacher Guide

  • Computer & projector





  • Atmosphere in a Jar activity sheet

  • Atmosphere in a Jar summary questions (optional)

Standards Connection

To Do in Advance




1. Frame the Activity

2. Fact or Fiction: Gathering Students' Ideas


3. Atmosphere in a Jar

4. Atmosphere in a Jar Follow-Up Questions (optional)

5. Formative Assessment


For more information about On the Air 2020, contact:

Rebecca Davis, Education Manager

For more information about Clean Air Partners, check out our website at:

© 2020 by Clean Air Partners.