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Pyrotechnics for Pyromaniacs
Today's students don't understand why they need to study chemistry. This lesson-plan is geared towards giving them a fun way of looking at chemistry and providing a reason for them to know and understand chemistry. They have all experienced the Fourth of July celebration. Through this lesson, the students will learn how chemistry is associated with the annual celebration of America's independence. They will learn what gunpowder is made of, the anatomy of a firework, how noise is made in fireworks and the safety issues involved in pyrotechnics.
This lesson can be used in several areas of the chemistry year. It can be used as a precursor to get students interested in chemistry, when the students learn exothermic and endothermic reactions, or when they are learning about atoms and molecules.
Prep For Teachers
After they design their own firework display, tell them that they will be making a legend of the metals involved in the chemicals in their firework. They will be getting the information for this task from the video and the online interactive sites. Tell the students that they will be learning about the chemicals that make up fireworks and how fireworks are shot in the air.
Insert the tape NOVA "Fireworks" into the VCR. START the tape at the beginning. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Ask your students to note the three components of gunpowder, how fountains are created and what are used to make "stars" . PAUSE the tape when you see the last of the fireworks and right before you see people and boats. You will hear the phrase "Roman candles and fountains come from tubes." Discuss with your students how gunpowder was created and its components.
RESUME PLAYING. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Ask your students to identify what can happen to fireworks with different weather conditions and the dangers that are involved. PAUSE the tape at the point where you hear "Anything can happen" and see the water and a flag on a pole.
Discuss with your students why these weather conditions would be considered "bad" for a display.
FASTFORWARD and RESUME PLAYING at the point where you hear "Italians developed prototypes of almost all basic fireworks" and you see the monk walking towards the camera and a fountain firework going off. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Tell your students that color is an important part of fireworks. Tell them to pay particular attention to how color is created in fireworks and what causes the different colors. PAUSE the film when you hear "reflect all color in the visible spectrum and appear bright white" and you see the color spectrum with white flames above it.
Discuss with your students how colors are developed
from various metal salts. Discuss the different colors that are produced
from the examples the film provided. You might want to look up some other
salts and the colors they give off and point these out. For example NaCl
gives off a bright orange color. Also point out to your students the change
from Potassium Nitrate to Potassium Chlorate. Discuss why this is an important
Sound is a big factor in watching the public demonstrations of fireworks. This section of the film describes how the "bang" is produced and the anatomy of a basic firework. Guide your students to imagine what more chambers would do for a firework. Explain to them that they will get to see the whole anatomy of a firework when they do the online portion of this lesson.
FASTFORWARD and RESUME PLAYING when you see the blind woman looking up and right before the noise description. You will hear the woman say, "description has certainly enhanced my image." FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Ask your students to note how the three different sounds are created. PAUSE the film at the building and Mr. Zambelli and when you hear the narrator say, "back at the Zambelli plant a bang is the worst nightmare." Have your students describe how sound affects them during a fireworks display. Does it affect them emotionally? Is that important?
RESUME PLAYING. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Have your students identify the different dangers involved in pyrotechnics. PAUSE the film when you see the river and hear "Pyrotechnics have their favorite spots." There are many dangers involved in using and watching firework displays. Discuss with your students some of these dangers and how the pyrotechnics have overcome those dangers.
RESUME PLAYING. FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Have your students think about how technology has really advanced the fireworks displays. PAUSE when you hear "maximizing the computer technology to really create" and you see the man at the laptop. This is before the dancer. Discuss how technology is important to the artistic value of a fireworks display. Ask your students if they have ever seen a fireworks display that was synchronized with music.
FASTFORWARD and RESUME PLAYING when the barge in the water is shown and you hear "Back in Boston." FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: Ask your students if the government would be a good entity to be involved in a fireworks display and if so, what would be the capacity to their involvement. PAUSE at "Pyrotechnics is show business." There are more safety issues. Ask your students if the UCC is an appropriate group to have. Ask them if they think there are other uses to this kind of center. RESUME PLAYING. STOP the film when you see the two gentlemen performing a "high-five". Ask your students to consider if the firework they designed is realistic now that they know more about the makings of fireworks. Make sure they know that no matter what theirs looks like; the legend is what they will be graded on.
Ask your students to log onto NOVA "Fireworks" web site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/fireworks. Explain that this web site provides a companion to the movie. Provide your students the "Online Guide to the Innards of Fireworks" sheet. Explain to your students that when they get to the periodic table of elements they must log onto the NOVA "Kaboom!" website at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/kaboom. Have them complete the worksheet and check for comprehension.
Write a diary entry about an experience that they experienced on a Fourth of July Celebration. Where fireworks a major part of this experience? Would the experience been as memorable if you hadn't had fireworks?
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