Introduction: Learning Unit - Air

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Teach it! Well, I'm a primary school teacher, so I'm going to show how I teach.... in particular how I create learning unit.

I love to teach with learning unit (UdA Unità di Appredimento) that includes as much subjects as possible on one theme. This is a good way to teach pupils not to think in airtight areas and it's funny for them and for teachers.

Step 1: Choose the Theme

First of all choose the theme, probably this should be done according to the teaching planning.... of course every State has its own regulament about it.

For this instructable I'll use the example of a work I've done for my 3rd and 4th grade pupils about the air.

Make a map, written or in your mind it's the same, do as you prefere. I generally keep it in mind (I wrote it down to do the 'Ible).

Gather all the ideas about the different subjects. For example, I started the "air theme" in Science, because it was more natural to me. Then I found a lot of ways to talk about it in the other subjects.

Of course I needed to agree upon the theme with the collegues that teach the subject I don't teach.

Step 2: Expound the Theme

Start with the subject you fell more confortable with (this could vary from theme to theme).

I wrote about the air in scientific terms:

  • composition of the atmosphere;
  • how high is the atmosphere and its names;
  • uses of the air (1);
  • problems (2);
  • solutions (3).

You can then expand these parts:


  • breathing;
  • combustion;
  • protection;
  • warming.


  • pollution;
  • greenhouse effect;
  • ozone hole.


  • Kyoto Protocol;
  • Monteral Protocol;

Step 3: Continue to Expand - Experiments

You can talk about respiration in Humans, talking about the body.

If you can (you have to use a cigarette), there is an interesting experiment about how smoking soils our lungs:

Use a palstic bottle and do 2 holes in it: one at the base (plugged) and one in the cap. Fill the bottle with water and put the lighted up cigarette in the hole in the cap. That open the hole at the base of the bottle. Going out, the water sucks the cigarette, so all the smoke goes in the bottle. Take away the finished cigarette and the cap, then put a handkerchief around the opening. Blow in the hole at the base of the bottle. All the smoke will exit through the handkerchief. Now take away the handkerchief and look how it's dirt!

You can add some other interesting experiments about air (these could be done in school, I've done them myself):

  • Two candles under to different glass jar (one bigger) to see that the oxygen is used (the candle under the littler jar will extinguish early);
  • In a glass jar put papers and burn them. Close the jar and the air in it will be polluted.
  • Put some water in a square bowl with some drops of milk. Putting a flashlight on a side, the colour of the sky will be simulated (the milk stands for the fine dust of the atmosphere): pink near the light, light blue more distant.
  • Put a little plant in a greenhouse and measure the temperature.
  • Put a bottle of cold water on a black cardboard and then in a transparent plastic bag. Put all this in the sun. After some hours notice the the water is warm. (In my school we don't have hot water, so my pupils loved this experiment!)

My pupils love Science because of the experiments ;D

Step 4: Documentary

If you can, let your pupils watch some documentaries: Scientists that explain the theme, 3D schematics and simulations could be really important for kids.

Be sure that you have already explain the most of the subject that will be shown in the documentary, because pupils will find what they know and be more attentive and enthusiast.

Step 5: Models - Maths and Art

In Maths you can do some interesting exercises about air:

  • the percentage of the gasses;
  • the length of the layers (kilometers to meters and so on);

In Art and Geometry you can do models to make pupils understand better the theme.

Atmosphere model:

  1. take a transparent bag or a jar;
  2. draw 78 squares on a white paper, 21 light blue, 1 pink (Art and Geometry!);
  3. roll the squares into balls;
  4. put the balls in the bag/jar.

This is the models of our atmosphere (78% nitrogen; 21% oxygen; 1% other gasses).

With watercolours you can do painting about air:

  • from blue to very light blue fot the atmosphere;
  • red-orange-yellow-(very little or no green)-light blue- blue-purple-black for the sky at sunset (look at the photos);

If you city/town has one (and if you can!) go to the museum to see the "air perspective": in 1800's artists started to use this technique to make the pictures more realistic. The farer is the paited subject, the blurrier is because of more air is between the artist and the subject. The Pinacoteca di Como has lots of these pictures.

You can talk about famous Art about air and weather, for example "La Tempesta" by Giorgione.

Step 6: Sports

You can add some games to let your pupils move and vent.

1) Using the air to win:

  • Have the pupils parted in some teams;
  • Gave to every team one piece of cardboard;
  • The goal of the game is to "blow" a balloon across the field without touching it, only with the cardboard used as a fan.

2) Non competitive game (this is my idea) - knowing the states of the matter (solid; liquid; gas)

  • The pupils are parted in teams (4-5 pupils, no more);
  • They have to act like the molecules of the state dictated by the teacher (or one of the pupils):
    • gas = they run around with no order;
    • solid = they embrace and do not move too much;
    • liquid = they take their hands and walk around;

This can be done more difficult just saying "more heat" or "less heat" or something similar ("I add fire!" "I put you in the freezer" and so on) or even more difficult using the name of the state transition (evaporation; sublimation; and so on). My pupils love this game.

Step 7: Music

Find some songs and music that talk about air. Classical music was often written to simulate sounds that obviously couldn't be registered at time. Here some suggestions about air:

  • The Tempest by Beethoven;
  • The Four Seasons by Vivaldi (in particular 2nd part of Spring and the 1st of Winter);
  • Blowin' in the Wind by Bob Dylan (or Italian cover by Luigi Tenco, "La Risposta è nel Vento");
  • Storms in Africa by Enya;
  • Caribbean Blue by Enya (at the start of the song are said some names of the winds);
  • Vent Frecc (or Vent fin in French) - this is also very simple to play with the recorder; the lyrics in dialect of Como

    can be useful to link the work to History and/or Geography, or the French lyric if the 2nd language is French.

Vent Frecc - Dialect of Como Lyrics

Vent Frecc
dela matina
ghe scià il vent
su la cima di gran pin
sent ul vent
che al bofa
andem incuntra al vent....


Cold wind
of the morning
here comes the wind
of the top of the big pine
Listen to the wind
that blows
We go toward the wind.]

Step 8: Foreign Language

You can use the theme to teach some foreign language words. Here a short list of English-Italian words.

  • air = aria
  • water = acqua
  • cloud = nuvola
  • rain = pioggia
  • atmosphere = atmosfera
  • wind = vento
  • Earth = Terra
  • Sun = Sole
  • oxygen = ossigeno

Step 9: Readings, Social Studies and Other Subjects

Find some interesting readings about pollutions, greenhouse effect, Kyoto and Montreal protocols.

I didn't teach Music and I still don't teach Italian, History, Geography, Sports, Religion, so for some of these subjects I have less ideas, but you can talk about pollution in the past, the wind rose, the weather conditions in the different part of World, how the problems will affect differents States and so on. You can talk about "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare in English and/or Poetry. And how about Deluge and Noah's ark for Religion?

It's important that you agree upon the theme with the other teachers of the team.

Making a Learning Unit is a hard and long work, but it gives you and your pupils a lot of beautiful opportunities and fun.

So, enjoy teaching with UdA!

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