Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let There Be Fire

As a part of our fire studies, we performed an experiment this evening with fire.

I gathered the following objects:

1 old swimsuit that nobody wears anymore
1 handful of dryer lint
1 handful of dry twigs
2 pieces of paper
1 unraveled newspaper
1 plastic bag
1 small rope
1 pair of scissors
1 lighter

I took Kira out to the driveway where all our materials were gathered.

I discussed safety with her regarding the experiment and playing with fire.

I took one of the twigs and tried to ignite the end of it with the lighter. The twig caught on fire, but only burned briefly before going out. I discussed with Kira the need for more heat before the fire could take hold. We had the fuel and the air, but the heat was insufficient to maintain a fire.

I took the dryer lint and explained the word "flammable" to Kira. I told her that dryer lint is very flammable and burns really hot, really fast. I stacked all the twigs on top of the dryer lint in a typical tepee formation. Then I carefully lit the dryer lint. We observed the lint as it went up in flames and discussed how the fire was behaving. We observed the twigs as they also caught flames and watched as they subsequently burned out when all the lint was gone.

I took the old swimsuit and ignited it using the seam. Kira observed that the swimsuit was "dripping fire" onto the driveway. We discussed the fact that clothing is usually very flammable and will stick to the skin if it catches on fire while being worn. We also discussed the reasons to avoid playing with fire because of the inherent dangers to one's self and others. It was really kind of cool watching the fabric as it burned and melted into a puddle.

We tried to burn a plastic bag. I pointed out to Kira that the bag would not burn, but melted instead. We discussed the fact that plastic is not as easily ignited and needs a higher level of heat to actual burn.

We burned one piece of paper that was twisted into a tight wad. We discussed the amount of oxygen that was getting to the paper and the rate at which the paper was burning. Then we burned another piece of paper without twisting it. We laid the flat piece of paper on top of our fire pile and watched as it quickly dissolved into flames.

We took the newspaper and rolled it into a tube. We discussed the oxygen level that would reach the various parts of paper and tried to guess how quickly the paper would burn. After our discussion, we lit the edge of the paper and watched as the outside layers burned away and left the inner layers untouched. We also observed the chimney effect of the tube as the smoke spiraled out the ends of the paper instead of rising straight up into the air.

Finally, we discussed the proper method for extinguishing our fire. Kira procured a glass of water with the assistance of her Dad and slowly poured the water onto the burnt objects. The objects were still smoking, so Kira determined that we needed more water. After the objects were completely extinguished, Kira went to tell her Dad all about our fire experiment.

From this experiment Kira was able to study the behavior of fire with various types of fuels and conditions. An experiment of this nature requires a great deal of supervision and discussion regarding safety procedures, but offers a chance for a child to gain a real understanding of the way fires react to different objects.

This was a huge success!!!