Children begin to learn about the capacity of objects in elementary school. The concept of pints, quarts, half-gallons and gallons is a steppingstone to learning about the geometry topics of area and volume. Teachers use estimation demonstrations and art activities to illustrate capacity to their students.
This activity is for students who have learned the basics of capacity. A full piece of large construction paper in red (12x18 inches) will be marked as “Gallon.” This is the body. Cut another large piece of paper in blue into four equal pieces and glue them onto the red paper as arms and legs. Mark them as “Quarts.” Cut a large piece of white construction paper into eight equal pieces and glue them onto the ends of the blue paper and label them “Pints.” The last piece of paper is green and it is cut into 16 equal pieces. Label each piece “Cups” and glue two pieces of green on the end of each white paper. Each student will make their own head to attach to the top of their Gallon Guy.
The Volume in Your Mouth
This whole group activity begins with the teacher presenting containers to the class. These containers should vary in capacity, as well as in size. Work as a class and put the bottles in order of capacity. Teachers should remove any labels that would tell students what capacity is listed on the container. Fill the container the class has decided has the highest capacity with rice. Mark with a black marker where the container has been filled to capacity. Then use the rice to fill the next container and mark that one in as different color. Repeat down the line with the other bottles, explaining that if the container being poured overflows when filling the next one with rice, that the first container has a larger capacity. Then use what students have learned to determine who has the largest mouth in the room. Students will see how many mini marshmallows they can put into their mouth. Whose mouth has the largest capacity?
Students will visualize the concept of capacity by estimating the capacity of various containers. The teacher shows students empty containers with the capacities of pint, quart, half-gallon and gallon. The teacher also shows students a large bowl holding one pint of cereal. Have students estimate how much cereal is in the bowl. Then, pour the pint of cereal into the different containers one at a time to eventually show the kids what a pint looks like. Then, the teacher will do the same for the other containers. This is a way for students to see what the different amounts look like with real objects.
Kimberlee Broaddus is a fourth grade teacher in California who has written articles for her school's monthly newsletter. She holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis on early elementary education. She currently sits on a district writing committee working on curriculum and assessments for local schools.