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Percentage of Oxygen in the Air

Source Institutions

    The Exploratorium

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Percentage of Oxygen in the Air

In this activity, learners calculate the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere by using steel wool's ability to rust. Learners measure the volume of a test tube with a small amount of steel wool at the bottom before and after 2 days of rusting. They use this data to calculate the percent of oxygen in the air and average class data.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Test tube (or any container)
  • Clear glass of water
  • Soap or vinegar
  • Water
  • Graduated cylinder
  • Fine mesh steel wool (00 or finer)
  • Tape or marker pen


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
    • Number and Operations
    • Problem Solving
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
    • Motion and Forces
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elements and Periodic Table
      • Volume and Density
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Muller, Eric


  • All Rights Reserved, ©2000