Teacher’s Guide

Teaching Suggestions for
Under Pressure

      Article / Page

"The Powers of Pressure," pg. 6
  • What is pressure? It’s everything from the atmospheric pressure here on Earth that we scarcely notice to the enormous pressure inside a black hole that’s too big for us to imagine. In both cases, however, some fundamental laws of physics are at work.
  • Vocabulary, Compare and Contrast
"How Signor Torricelli Discovered Nothing," pg. 9
  • In the 1600s, Torricelli’s experiments gave form to the idea of air pressure and allowed people to measure its effects. The interview is fiction, but the facts are true.
  • Drawing Conclusions, Deductive Reasoning
" ‘Weighing In’ on Atmospheric Pressure" (People to Discover), pg. 11
  • Weather is all about changes in pressure, the forces that cause them, and the effects they have on us all. This interview with a meteorologist reveals how air pressure makes skies sunny or gray.
  • Deductive Reasoning, Cause and Effect
"Water Served with Pressure," pg. 12
  • We take our showers for granted, but towers and pumps must control water pressure to make home plumbing work. A graphic (pg. 13) shows a simple household water plan. Sidebars demonstrate how water towers affect pressure (pg. 14) and explain how aqueducts work (pg. 15).
  • Applications, Observation
"Taking the Ultimate Plunge," pg. 16
  • Tanya Streeter’s world-record free dive is a perfect (if extreme) laboratory for exploring the effects of pressure. A sidebar (pg. 18) explains the dangers scuba divers face from breathing pressurized air and reveals the safety precautions they must take.
  • Cause and Effect, Inductive Reasoning
"Going Up: Life in the Death Zone," pg. 19
  • At the top of Mt. Everest, the relatively lower atmospheric pressure means that each breath supplies only one-third of the oxygen obtained at sea level. Follow the historic climb of Hillary and Norgay as they conquer the mountain’s thin air.
  • Cause and Effect, Adaptation
"Squeezed to the Extreme," pg. 22
  • Robotic submersibles explore the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean to locate and retrieve bacteria capable of surviving extreme pressures. A sidebar (pg. 24) describes the "Deep Sea" exhibit at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  • Adaptation, Vocabulary
"My Goldfish Is a Submarine" (Activity), pg. 25
  • It’s all about buoyancy. Using common household items, the reader can test Archimedes’ Principle and discover how both fish and submarines can surface and sink with ease.
  • Observation, Drawing Conclusions
"Candy Can Be a Gas!" pg. 27
  • Pop Rocks candy is boiled sugar mixed with carbon dioxide gas under pressure. When the mixture cools and solidifies, its internal pressure is maintained. It’s released in the mouth with a satisfying pop.
  • Application, Cause and Effect
"Fire and Ice: Cool New Designer Diamonds Are Hot," pg. 28
  • Diamond is the hardest known substance, a super conductor of heat and sound, and a poor conductor of electricity. Synthetic diamonds are made in the lab to serve many practical purposes.
  • Vocabulary, Process Analysis
"Let’s Play with Pressure!" (Activity), pg. 34
  • Three activities illustrate that playing with pressure is a physics-al thing. Boyle’s Law, Newton’s Third Law, Charles’s Law, and Bernoulli’s Principle take center stage.
  • Drawing Conclusions, Observation
"Pipelines and Pressure: The Story of Maple Syrup," pg. 36
  • Maple syrup is made from the watery sap of sugar maple trees. Spring thawing and nightly freezing cause pressure changes in the wood of the tree. The sap flows, exerting pressure against cell walls until a hole drilled in the tree’s truck lets it flow freely.
  • Cause and Effect, Application
"In a Balloon" (Brain Strain), pg. 39
  • If a large, inflated balloon is joined to a smaller one, will the larger one shrink and the smaller one expand?
  • Following Directions, Hypothesis Formation
"Pressure? Don’t Tell Me About Pressure!", pg. 40
  • What are the causes and symptoms of the "fight or flight" syndrome, and what can we do to alleviate the pressure of emotional stress?
  • Cause and Effect, Following Directions
"A Lunar Eclipse and a Meteor Shower!" (What’s Up and Planet Watch), pg. 42
  • A total lunar eclipse and a meteor shower highlight this month’s observations. Check out the surface features of the moon and make a model of its craters in an accompanying activity (pg. 46).
  • Following Directions, Observation
"Prairie Dogs Under Pressure" (Animal Angles), pg. 49
  • In the early 20th century, ranchers declared war on the prairie dogs they feared would eat the grass they wanted for their cattle. Today, environmental groups try to relieve the pressure on prairie dogs and to find ways for them to co-exist with their human neighbors.
  • Problem Solving, Environmental Awareness
Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
  1. What does "pressure" mean to you? Brainstorm all of the different uses of the word in a word wheel. Then make a list of the situations in which pressure can be felt, observed, or measured. Compare your lists with the subjects of the articles in the magazine.
  2. What experiments have you seen or done with pressure? Have you ever conducted the "egg into the bottle" experiment, flown paper airplanes, or built a Cartesian diver? Try to recall what these experiments revealed about different kinds of pressure.
Classroom "Syzygy":     Talk, Connect, Assess
Pg. 12 – "Water Served with Pressure"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. Do you have any problems with water pressure in your home? What might be the source of your problems, and how might they be remedied?
    2. What decisions must designers, engineers, and contractors make to ensure an adequate supply of water for a home or housing development? How does the terrain affect the plan?
  • Connections:
    1. History: Research early methods of supplying water to towns and homes. Learn about the aqueduct systems built in ancient Rome. You might also check water systems of early 19th-century homes in the United States. (Washington Irving’s home "Sunnyside" is a good one to start with.) Create a poster or bulletin board to show how water supply technology has changed over time.
    2. Visual Arts: Design a water supply plan for a model community. Assume that the terrain is hilly and that apartment buildings sit atop the two tallest knolls. Where will you place a water tower? Where will you use pumps? Where should you install fire hydrants? Do you need valves to lower water pressure for some homes? Make a detailed sketch of your community.
    3. Presentation Skills: Interview experts in your community about your local water system. Take photographs and use them to make a PowerPoint or other visual presentation for your class.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. After reviewing the graphic on page 13, describe, either in writing or aloud, how the water supply system for the house in the diagram works. Make your description so clear and so detailed that your readers or listeners can understand the system without seeing the diagram.
    2. Review the activity on page 14. Pretend that you have just performed this experiment for a second-grade class. One of the students asks you why the water behaved the way it did and wonders if perhaps you used magic. Write your answer to this student to explain your experiment and dispel the notion that any magic was involved.
pg. 28 – "Fire and Ice: Cool New Designer Diamonds Are Hot"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. What forces turn carbon into diamonds? What is unique about diamonds, and why are they so valuable? What are the differences between natural and synthetic diamonds?
    2. What would happen if industry could mass-produce inexpensive, gem-quality diamonds? Would traditions change? If so, how? Would such mass production be good for the economy? Would there be any negative effects?
  • Connections:
    1. Mathematics: Reread the article’s concluding paragraph (pg. 33). From the weights and percentage given, determine how much carbon would be needed to produce 100 carats of diamond. Use your formula to estimate the number of carats that could be made from your body. Finally, determine the value of your carbon in diamonds, using an average market value of $82 per carat for diamonds "in the rough."
    2. Graphic Design: Pretend that you are in charge of advertising and public relations for a corporation that manufactures diamonds. Design a tri-fold brochure that describes your company and displays your products. Make sure you include diamonds for industrial uses as well as for jewelry. Photocopy your brochure to share with classmates.
    3. Creative Writing: In your library or on the Internet, read some of the myth, mystery, and lore associated with diamonds. Then write a poem to celebrate something you have read. In your poem, try to capture the magic of diamonds, while at the same time communicating the true nature of their physical and chemical properties.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. In a brief essay, explain clearly how diamonds form in nature.
    2. Use facts from the article and from your own research to create a trivia quiz about diamonds. Word your directions and questions clearly and make sure your answers are correct. Play the game with your class.
Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine (including a sparkling trivia quiz . . . answers below!)
Marilyn Monroe song title

Community Connection: Contact an acupressurist, cardiologist, massage therapist, chiropractor, podiatrist, or orthopedic surgeon. Ask the expert to speak to your class about what his or her practice has to do with pressure.

Romantic singer and songwriter of the 1960s and 1970s

Whole-Class Project: Have a "Maple Syrup Party." Decorate with a bulletin board that shows how pressure gives us maple syrup. Cook and eat maple syrup treats. Compile and publish a book of maple syrup recipes. Write and perform skits and songs to show where maple syrup comes from.

Surfer’s paradise

Small-Group Activity: Break the class into teams of two or three students each. Ask each team to plan and demonstrate an experiment to show some physical effect of pressure. Teach the scientific principle underlying the experiment to all class members.

Mr. and Mrs. Sixtieth

Large-Group Collaborative Activity: Break the class into three groups to organize a "Moon Day" celebration for a class of younger students. Let one group present pictures and diagrams of the moon’s surface, showing your audience what features to look for during a lunar eclipse. Challenge the second group to demonstrate how the moon orbits the Earth and how a lunar eclipse occurs. The third group can prepare a moon-based "scavenger hunt," compiling a list of items for teams in the younger class to find. Examples might include a recording of "Moon River," a pair of old moon boots, or clip art of the "Man in the Moon." End your "Moon Day" festivities with prizes for scavenger hunt winners — perhaps "Moon Pies" if you can find them.

(Answers: "Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend"; Neil Diamond; Diamond Head; Diamond Anniversary)