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Cross-curricular use of Fire context

Teachers at Nelson Preparatory School used resources from the Fire context to teach a cross-curricular unit combining science, English and ethics.

What better way to motivate year 7 and 8 boys to learn than by studying fire? Dian Edmondson and her colleagues at Nelson College Preparatory School used the Fire context as part of a cross-curricular teaching unit. The unit covered science, ethics, English and an LEOTC trip to the local fire station.

Dian says, “We used four of the activities over four classes. Each teacher became proficient in one experiment.” These are the activities they used:

  • Drama in the microworld – Through their imagination, students travelled to the world of tiny particles, atoms, molecules and ions. They used drama to explore solids, liquids and gases, heat transfer, chemical change and the combustion process.
  • Light a candle – Students observed a candle flame to investigate the burning process. Concepts covered include complete and incomplete combustion, radiant heat, evaporation and diffusion.
  • The great candle experiment – This classic activity involved a lit candle with an inverted jar in a saucer of water. However, there’s a twist to the scientific explanation of old.
  • The flying tea bag – Students set alight an empty tea bag to learn about convection.

In addition to the scientific ideas of combustion, fire detection and fire prevention, the Fire context also covers the ethical issue of using fire retardants in furniture. Dian used the teaching activity Ethics in fire science to develop her students’ critical thinking skills through small group discussions.

Literacy components were woven throughout the unit. The boys used research-based reading skills to locate, gather and select relevant information from articles on the Science Learning Hub (SLH) site. Students paired up and used their research to compile PowerPoint presentations. During each presentation, the boys were encouraged to take notes and ask questions. They also made posters for display in the classroom.

We will continue to use the Hub as it is teacher friendly and easy to navigate. The topics are relevant and the work has been done for us. The students find the site interesting and easy to use too.

A trip to the fire station rounded out the unit. Dian tied the science, ethics and practical components of the unit together by asking the boys to write an information report. She offered them topic choices like ‘The life and times of a fireman’, in which students discussed training, risks and challenges firefighters face, and ‘The pros and cons of using fire retardants’.

Dian comments, “We will continue to use the Hub as it is teacher friendly and easy to navigate. The topics are relevant and the work has been done for us. The students find the site interesting and easy to use too.”

Next up, Dian and the team plan to continue with science and ethics, this time using the SLH science story Conserving Native Birds.

Activity idea

View the resources Dian used to teach about fire

Visit the My Sci Teacher Ideas collection to download a SLH Fire unit plan. It includes learning outcomes, key competencies, nature of science, tasks and assessment ideas.

Visit the Ethics thinking tool for a collection of articles, frameworks, activities, guidance and an interactive to help you explore ethical issues in the classroom.

Fire activities featured in this article:
Drama in the microworld
Light a candle
The great candle experiment
The flying teabag
Ethics in fire science