Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Cases Archive
For Educators Crime scene investigations meet history
Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan Index
Scuba Science

Scuba Science - by Viki Babcock
Photo of the sinking Andrea Doria (middle/high school science)
Students learn about the sinking of the Andrea Doria via the Web site and then explore the science of the gas laws involved in scuba diving through a variety of hands-on activities.
Estimated class time

one class period

Lesson Objectives

Students will:
  • Learn about the tragic sinking of the Andrea Doria

  • Investigate the physiological effects of scuba diving on the diver

  • Perform hands-on exercises which illustrate various gas laws

  • Relate those gas laws to the act of scuba diving
Materials needed

  • Internet access

  • Copies of Gas Laws Activities Handout

  • Equipment for activities including:

    • 1-liter clear plastic soda bottles
    • glass medicine droppers
    • empty aluminum soda cans
    • hot plate
    • 1000 ml beaker
    • oven mitts
    • 2-liter soda bottles
    • small balloons
    • rubber or cork stoppers to fit the 2-liter bottles that have been fitted with an inflating tube
    • air pump with pressure gauge
    • water, ice
    • safety glasses

  • Video clips are available on the SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Andrea Doria website

Teaching Strategy

    Photo of the Andrea Doria

    Video clips for your students are available here.

    Video Clips
  1. Introduce students to the topic by directing them to the SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Andrea Doria website. Read through the Background and Clues and Evidence pages so that students learn the story of the Andrea Doria.

  2. Have students work in small groups to watch the video clips on the Web site and discuss the accompanying questions. Students should also complete the interactive from the website, answering the associated questions.

  3. By watching the video clips and completing the interactive, students should have gained a sense that scuba diving requires an understanding of certain gas laws. Provide each group of 2-4 students with the Gas Laws Activities handout and have each group rotate through each of the four activities described below. For large classes, you may have to set up several stations of the same activity.

    • Station 1:
      Cartesian diver to represent Boyle's Law: Provide students with a 1-liter clear plastic soda bottle, a glass tube medicine dropper and some water.

    • Interactive
      Diving Deep

      After completing the interactive for this episode students should answer these questions.
      Station 2:
      Charles' Law demonstration. Provide students with a hot plate, empty soda cans, some water, an oven mitt and a large (1000 ml) beaker of cold water.

    • Station 3:
      Boyle's Law again. Provide students with a 2-liter clear plastic soda bottle, a small balloon, a cork or rubber stopper that fits the bottle with an inflating needle inserted through it, some duct tape, and a bicycle pump with pressure gauge

    • Station 4:
      Computers with Internet access with a bookmark for Chemistry: Chapter 8: Tutorials at Students will work through the tutorials on Daltons' Law and Henry's Law, as described on their handouts.

Online Resources


  • Responses to video clip and interactive questions

  • Participation in small group lab activities

  • Written responses to lab handout questions

  • Divide the class into groups to learn about and create safety pamphlets about the physiological dangers of diving including nitrogen narcosis, oxygen toxicity, decompression sickness, drowning

  • Investigate the development of RADAR navigation systems.

  • Create informational posters about other historical sunken ships

Correlation to National Science Standards

Standards from

CONTENT STANDARD A: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry.

CONTENT STANDARD B: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of structures and property of matter:

    Solids, liquids, and gases differ in the distances and angles between molecules or atoms and therefore the energy that binds them together. In solids the structure is nearly rigid; in liquids molecules or atoms move around each other but do not move apart; and in gases molecules or atoms move almost independently of each other and are mostly far apart.

    The physical properties of compounds reflect the nature of the interactions among its molecules. These interactions are determined by the structure of the molecule, including the constituent atoms and the distances and angles between them.

Print this page

SECRETS OF THE DEAD is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York. © 2006 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.