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Fire Safety Science Activities

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

High school students will participate in hands-on activities to give them a deep understanding of how science relates to fire safety. Students will work collaboratively to investigate oil vs water fires, flammability and different types of extinguishers.

High Schoolers and Fire Safety Science

There are lots of ideas for teaching young children about fire safety, but often fire safety concepts do not continue into older school years like high school. High schoolers can benefit from a science-related fire safety instruction because they will be interested in the science behind the information. Adding scientific information makes the information more complex, thus more interesting and engaging to older students.

The activities offered here will engage your high school students in investigating fire and some common fire safety concepts. Please use caution and ensure that your students exercise caution when participating in these activities.

Oil and Water Don't Mix

This activity will help students understand the specific methods that work best for an oil-based fire (common in kitchen fires).

Materials

  • Large plastic containers (clean kitty litter trays would work)
  • Oil
  • Oil or powder based food coloring (optional)
    • Red would work to simulate fire
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Cups to hold sand/water

Instructions

  • Divide your class into small groups.
  • Ensure that each group has a tray, some dyed oil, a cup of water and a cup of sand.
  • Instruct your students to pour the dyed oil into the tray.
  • Now, tell your students the oil is on fire. Discuss that an oil fire acts differently from a typical fire.
  • Ask what students would normally pour on a small fire to put it out (water).
  • Now, encourage your students to splash the water into the oil.
    • What happened?
      • The oil spread away from the water.
    • What would happen if that oil had been on fire?
      • The fire would have spread on the oil instead of being put out by the water.
  • Next, have your students sprinkle the sand on the oil (it is okay if there is still water in the tray as well).
    • What happened this time?
      • The sand absorbed the oil.
    • How will this impact an oil fire?
  • Instruct your students to brainstorm in their groups and write down at least three scenarios in which an oil-based fire is likely.
  • Allow time for the groups to share their thoughts with each other.

Feeding a Fire

This activity will illustrate how a fire is fed and starved, giving your students food for thought for how to respond to a fire.

Materials

  • Fire proof trays
  • Small candles (tea light candle is fine)
  • Matches/lighters
  • Small swatches of materials with different levels of flammability
    • Flash paper
    • Paper towel
    • Thin cloth
    • Thick cloth
    • Leather
  • Safety glasses
  • Long handle tongs
  • Glass jar

Preparation

  • Set up each station with the materials.
    • Make sure there are safety glasses for each student.
  • Instruct your students on safe practices during the activity.

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