Catch Your Breath: Build a Spirometer and Measure your Lung Capacity

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In this activity, learners will measure their lung capacity by making their own spirometer. Learners will then explore factors that affect the amount of air the lungs can hold. Useful information about tidal air, reserve air, complemental air, vital capacity, and residual air is included in this lesson as well as the Lung Capacity chart.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • vinyl tubing
  • clean plastic drinking straws
  • 3.8 liter (1 gallon) clear plastic jug
  • 250 ml measuring cup
  • pail for water
  • masking tape
  • marking pen
  • plastic tub
  • funnel
  • food coloring
  • dropper
  • sponge


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Respiration

Informal Categories

  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Science Museum of Minnesota, 2000

Funding Source:

  • Medtronic Foundation