Find the science in fireworks

Youths’ natural curiosity about fireworks creates real-world learning opportunities for parents to teach children about safety, scientific inquiry, history and many other topics.

According to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), connecting science to real life is a great motivator for youth that parents and teachers can use with their children or students. Expand on these connections encourages youth to use them to solve real-world problems.

Fireworks add striking displays of color, sound and sparkling lights to many celebrations: Fourth of July, summer festivals and New Year’s Eve. So how can you can bring the “science into fireworks” this summer season? Begin with modeling the scientific inquiry process by having them tell, or reflect on, what they already know about fireworks. Then have them tell what they would like to discover and learn more about. From this list, you can help guide them in their discovery. Always carefully consider safety precautions and teach youth these principles as well.

Maybe they come up with the question, “What makes the explosion?” Check out fun exploding science experiments to safely direct them in exploring what makes an explosion. Ask them what they think will happen and why it happened. Allow them to come up with other questions that will lead to additional discoveries, such as “What will happen if we used a larger container?” From there, guide them in changing and observing this variable. Again inquire of the youth, “What happened and why?”

Check out the scientific flash behind the fireworks to find other interesting facts about fireworks, such as colors, timing and magic tricks that involve light and sound. Colorful chemistry within fireworks and which chemicals lead to different colors is another topic to explore. Pose the environmental issue that the smoke and dust from fireworks contains dangerous metals that fall back to the earth. Can they help to solve this dilemma?

See the NSTA article, “Engineering for All,” and the National 4-H Science Day challenges for activities that focus on problem solving.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s youth development provides other resources for aerospace and rocketry projects for youth. MSU Extension science and technology programs are also available.

Get out and help your child discover the science in your 4th of July celebration. Continue to explore different ways in which you, as a parent or caregiver, can play an active role in helping your child discover the fun in science. Positive experiences and encouragement will help them make learning connections with what they are learning in school and that may spark an interest in pursuing a future career in science.

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