Respiratory System Activities for Middle School


Respiratory system activities should give middle-school students a better understanding of how the respiratory system works, and why it is so important to the body's performance. Activities allow students to understand concepts better, and turn memorized concepts into practical applications.


  • Spirometers measure how much air your lungs can hold, and help doctors determine if a patient has asthma or other lung problems.

    Before class starts, form a basic spirometer from an empty 2-liter bottle and tubing, and some water; or purchase a ready-made spirometer kit. Bring enough tubing for each student to get a chance to blow into the tube, or snip pieces off the end of the tubing so that each student has a clean tube to blow on. Allow students to test their lung capacity by blowing into the tubing. The air from inside the student's lungs will go into the bottle and push water out of the bottle.

Parts of the Lung

  • Ask students to draw a diagram of the lung and identify the parts and functions, or pass out a fill-in-the blank type of diagram where students should label the parts. This type of activity prepares students for tests and quizzes, and ensures that they are familiar with all the parts of the lungs.

How We Breathe

  • Demonstrate how breathing works by asking a volunteer to lie down on a table with a book placed right on top of the diaphragm, or upper stomach area. Ask the volunteer to take a slow breath inward, and then hold it. Students in the classroom should notice that the book goes up -- because the volunteer's lungs are filled with air. Ask the student to slowly release the breath. Students should notice that the book lowers; this is because the lungs are emptying of air.

    Instruct students to place a hand on their upper stomach. As they breathe inward, they should feel their stomach push outward. As they breathe inward, their hand should go back toward their spine.

Counting Breaths

  • Divide the class into pairs and have student A count the number of breaths that student B takes in one minute, while in a seated position. Record this number as the "resting" respiration rate. Now have student B do a physical exercise, such as jumping jacks, for one minute. Count the number of breathes student B takes for one minute after exercising. Compare the two numbers and have students discuss why the number of breaths increased dramatically after student B exercised. Explain to the class that when someone exercises, muscles need more oxygen and blood. Respiration and heart rate both increase with activity and muscle strain.


  • Photo Credit thorax x-ray of the lungs image by JoLin from
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