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Balloon Popping Relay

In this relay race, students discover the strength of chemical bonds by trying to "out-pop" the other teams.

A balloon's rubber consists of many long chains of molecules called polymers. The chains are linked together like noodles stuck to each other in a plate of cooked spaghetti.

Polymer links can be stretched and compressed, giving the balloon its elasticity. If they are pulled too much, however, the rubber will tear allowing all the gas trapped inside to come rushing out. You can stretch a balloon to its limit by adding more gas inside or by compressing the balloon, forcing the gas inside to exert its pressure on a smaller area.

Objectives

  • Explain how a balloon’s chemical structure gives it its elasticity.

  • Understand why a balloon pops when stressed.

Materials

  • Per Class:
    balloons (one per student and a few extra)
    a balloon pump
    4 large bins or bags
    field or gym

Key Questions

  • What was the most effective way of popping your balloon?
  • Why does jumping on the balloon have a more immediate effect than stepping on a balloon?
  • What chemical property of balloons make them expand when you step on them?

What To Do

  1. Blow up enough balloons for each student playing the game.
  2. Divide the balloons equally into 4 bags or bins.
  3. This is a relay race. Divide class into 4 groups and have the groups line up across the field from their balloon bags
  4. At the start signal, the first students of each line must race to their bag and pull out one balloon.
  5. The students must pop their balloon as quickly as possible by sitting on it, stepping on it, or by other means.
  6. When they have popped their balloon they must race back and tag the next person on their team.
  7. The first team to have all their balloons popped wins!
  8. Be sure to clean up and dispose of the broken balloons carefully. Balloon rubber is harmful to wildlife.

​Teacher Tip: If playing outside, either weigh down the balloon bags or have a volunteer stay by the balloons to ensure they don’t float away.

Extensions

  • What happens if you try to pop a balloon that is blown up a lot, as compared to a balloon that is not inflated very much?

Other Resources

Science World | YouTube | The Balloon Show