Monday, October 12, 2020

What’s in a Fire Extinguisher?

This blog post is brought to you by Nicky Waller, one of our advisory teachers who works across the North East of England.
This blog post is brought to you by Nicky Waller, one of our advisory teachers who works across the North East of England.

In this very safety-conscious age, where rules and regulations determine very strictly what we are and are not allowed to do, lighting fires and watching different materials burn might feel like a distant memory to an older generation. As a result, primary-aged children today may be less likely to know about what causes fire and what action to take to reduce fire hazards.

 CIEC’s activity: ‘What’s in a fire extinguisher?’ begins with a class discussion of extinguishers, buckets and blankets, and their use in putting out fires. Children will then enjoy the practical aspect of modelling for themselves how one type of real fire extinguisher works. 

Children model how a CO2 fire extinguisher works by creating carbon dioxide gas from a solid (bicarbonate of soda) – liquid (vinegar) mixture, to extinguish a candle flame.

This activity links perfectly with the National Curriculum for England statutory requirement for year 5 pupils in science which states that pupils should be taught to: ‘explain that some changes result in the formation of new materials, and that this kind of change is not usually reversible, including changes associated with burning and the action of bicarbonate of soda.’

Proving to be a favourite with Key Stage Two teachers, the activity requires simple equipment (as shown in the diagram) and minimal set up time to provide an almost instant wow factor! Full safety guidance is provided in the detailed teacher notes.

Probing class discussions will help children to make links between this ‘table top’ classroom activity and the real world including some of the jobs related to fire safety and awareness. These sorts of links help to raise children’s science capital as they see how the science that they do in school has real life applications and is relevant to their lives both now and in the future.

To coincide with this blog post, we have published a new IndusTRY at Home resource for you share with families.  Why don’t you put a link on your school website?

For a broader set of activities linked to this topic, have a look at our free resource Kitchen Concoctionswhich expands the wider topic of ‘kitchen chemistry’ by looking at creating mixtures, separating mixtures, reversible and irreversible changes, fair testing and observations over different periods of time.