About the author: Kelly Leovic has been with EPA since 1987, doing indoor air research and then exposure research before beginning her dream job of educational outreach in 2003.
I loaded the lung capacity kit, Watts meter, and brochures into my car and couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to do this! Today was my 3rd year staffing our EPA Booth at the Durham Bulls Education Day – same team as Bull Durham movie, just a new ballpark.
At 9:30 a.m., over 3,000 students, 1st grade through high school, and their chaperones and teachers descended upon the Ballpark. Instantly, our table was surrounded by students anxious to measure how many cups of air they had in their lungs or to compare the wattage of a CFL with a traditional bulb.
Lung capacity is always the most popular activity at our booth, so the next 3 hours went something like this:
A class of 3rd graders surrounds our table curious about the big bucket of water with a tube.
Kelly: Today we are going to do an experiment to measure how many cups of air you have in your lungs.
Kid #1: Is it free?
Kelly: Sure is! Now take a clean straw, and put it into the end of the tube attached to the bucket. Take a deep breath and blow all the air out of your lungs into the tube. Then we’ll measure how many cups of water you emptied. Only take one breath. (We can’t use the term “water displacement” with 3rd graders!)
Kid #1 begins to blow, and we all cheer words of lung-emptying encouragement. I play judge, making sure no one sneaks in an extra breath.
Kelly: Nice job. Now, let’s measure how many cups of air you had. Wow…8 cups! (Most kids measure between 4 and 16 cups of air.)
Finally, we then talk about why some kids might have more capacity than others and how exercise can improve lung capacity.
I repeat this, smiling and saying “nice job,” approximately 172 times that day. In the spirit of exercise and health, my favorite part is talking to the students about their sports. I especially enjoy when they play basketball or tennis, run track, or swim because those are sports that my kids do. I also love their “competitive” spirit in trying to outdo their classmates.