Soda Bottle Lung Model

by Amy on March 5, 2010

soda bottle lung model experiment

I can’t believe it’s Friday already and I haven’t been in this space all week! It’s been one of those weeks where no one (especially me!) has been feeling motivated to do much of anything… although, the girls have been doing some extensive fairy pretend play!

We have been enjoying some hands-on activities to explore the human body. I bought a Magic School Bus science kit, Journey into the Human Body, and we have also been using a book from the library, Play and Find Out About the Human Body.

Earlier this week, we used a plastic 2-liter bottle, a balloon, and a sheet of plastic to make a model of the lung.

The balloon represents the lung and the plastic sheet across the bottom of the bottle represents the diaphragm muscle. As you pull the tab down, you contract the diaphragm and inflate the lung. As you push the tab back up, the diaphragm relaxes and the lung deflates.

It is a subtle inflate/deflate with the balloon, but the girls were able to see the basic idea of how the diaphragm and lungs work. (This was one of the experiments outlined in our science kit, but I also found online instructions here.)

We’re also planning to test our lung capacity and compare kid lungs to adult lungs.

I am hoping for a sunny weekend and some fresh air to get rid of the blahs around here. Hope your weekend is wonderful!


Sarah March 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

Goodness, what a great idea! I stumbled upon your website earlier this week and must say I’m in love! Your pictures, posts, ideas, all of it is sheer brilliance. Thank you for all the fantastic ideas and resources. I’m not homeschooling yet, but when my son finishes kindergarten in May, we will begin. I plan to use a lot of your ideas. Thank you so much! ~SS

Ticia March 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I love this idea. I knew it was out there somewhere. Thanks for posting about this.

Megret March 5, 2010 at 7:54 pm

We are starting a unit on the human body this coming week — I am bookmarking this experiment to try! My kids are fascinated by this subject — they are so excited to learn!
Thanks for posting.

kelli January 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm

currently studying anatomy in our hs group- great ideas – thankx!

Julie September 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Where does one get a sheet of plastic for the diaphragm?

Amy September 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Ours came in a Magic School Bus science kit, but I’m guessing a piece of a plastic trash bag or shopping bag would work.

Julie September 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

Thanks. We’re going to try this over the weekend.

John Oswalt February 29, 2012 at 8:53 am

For the bottom membrane, pull a rubber glove over the bottom opening to simulate the diaphragm. Rubber band the fingers together for an easy pull. Also, cut the bottle nearer the base so the natural curve of the bottle helps the glove stay in place. The molded bottom is more rigid than the sides,so the “diaphragm” muscle will hold on better. All I used was a balloon, a bottle, and a rubber glove. Simple.

Amy March 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for sharing your version – sounds like it would work perfectly!

Michael Tom March 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hi Amy,

My name is Michael Tom a medical student at the University of Hawaii who is helping to plan a day camp for kids. We are planning to have the kids do a nutrition relay race as one of the activities and thought a picture would be good on our announcement flyer. However, this is our first year doing this event so have no pictures of our own. Would you mind allowing us to use pictures from your website (in particular the one from your recycling relay race)? The event is non-profit and free to kids. I would be happy to show you a copy of the flyer.

Name: Michael Tom
Organization: University of Hawaii

Michael Tom March 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Amy,

Sorry I meant to say, could we use the picture from your lung modeling, not the relay race. Please let me know.

Thank you,

Amy September 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm

if you do the bottle lung experiment again don’t cut so much off the end and both rubber band and tape (packing tape). If there is any leak at all you are basically demonstrating a pneumothorax (hole in the lung) and you won’t get much inflation. We just pinched the diaphragm and pulled to make it work without the cardboard pull. has a good quick video that demonstrates the action of the diaphragm and goes well with this experiment.

Amy September 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm

also-I don’t think just any plastic will work. The diaphragm needs to be flexible. Ask your MD or a nurse for a latex glove if you don’t have the school bus kit. If it’s secured really well you can even demonstrate getting “the wind knocked out of you” by punching the diaphragm. You’ll get really good balloon movement if everything is tight.

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