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Science Misconception: Is Oxygen the Same Thing As Air?
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Science Area:  Earth Science

Misconception:

Air and Oxygen are the same thing.

 

Facts:

Air and oxygen are two separate things.  The air in our atmosphere is composed of molecules of different gases. The most common gases are nitrogen (78%), oxygen (about 21%), and argon (almost 1%). Other molecules are present in the atmosphere as well, but in very small quantities.  Oxygen is a component of air.  Oxygen is produced by plants during photosynthesis and is necessary for aerobic respiration in people and animals.

 

Explanation: 

Children may use the terms air and oxygen interchangeably, yet they are two different entities.  Air is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, gaseous mixture, mainly nitrogen (approximately 78 percent) and oxygen (approximately 21 percent) with lesser amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, neon, helium, and other gases. Oxygen is a component of air.  Oxygen is produced by plants during photosynthesis and is necessary for aerobic respiration in animals and human beings.

 

Suggested Activity:

Have the children make a pie chart similar to the one above breaking down the different gases that make up air.

 

 

Source:  http://eo.ucar.edu/basics/wx_1_b_1.html

Accessed on 6/15/07