by Michelle Crooker
This semester at our co-op, I was asked to teach a science class—by the students themselves! Apparently, I am the crazy science teacher. And I love it!
My student group consists of fourth- and fifth-graders this semester. I decided to use the seven days of creation as my lesson guide. These students generally know the story of creation, so we’re going to use it as our inspiration for the next seven weeks. So far, we have only done one class – “Let There Be Light“– but this series of lessons is off to a great start!
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:3 KJV)
Start the lesson by discussing these questions with your students: Why do we need light? For what do we use light?
Experiment #1: Why We Need Light
- Materials needed:
- one piece of paper
- one writing utensil
- Tell the students to write their names on the papers. They can even add some stylistic flourishes to their signatures.
- When the students are done, tell them to write their names again the same way. However, this time, there is a catch—they will do it with their eyes closed.
- Have the students close their eyes and try to write their names, with the same embellishments, again.
Generally, students find that this is much harder to do with their eyes closed. This is one of the reasons that we are thankful that God gave us light. It is quite a bit easier to do things when there is light.
After discussing how light is helpful, we decided to create our own light. The first thing I had all the students do was to say “Let there be light”. No one was very surprised when it didn’t work!
Next, we discussed the different ways people can create light. The two most obvious methods are electricity and fire. To start with, we flipped the light switch a few times and watched the lights go on and off, and I asked the students why that happened. They may only be able to explain that the lights turned on and off because someone flipped the switch. You can then explain how a light switch’s electrical circuit works. When a light switch is in the “off” position, the circuit is open—incomplete—and the electricity cannot flow from the power source to the light bulb. When you flip the light switch “on”, this closes—completes—the circuit.
Another example of how people can make light is by building a fire. The kids were definitely excited about this part. To continue with this experiment, we went outside to a flat surface away from buildings and other structures.
Experiment #2: Creating Light
- Cotton balls
- Small plastic baggie
- Baking soda
- Metal pan or fire pit
- Water (to be able to put out the fire when you are done— or in case of emergency)
- Ignition source (I had a long fireplace lighter)
- Prior to class, place three or four cotton balls into the baggie, then add a few teaspoons of baking soda. Close and shake the bag to cover the cotton balls in the baking soda.
- Explain to the students that this is not something to try at home without adult permission and supervision.
- Take a plain (non-baking-soda-covered) cotton ball and place it in the pan.
- Light it on fire!
- Ask the kids if they want to see it again. In a majority of the cases, the answer will be an emphatic yes!
- Place a baking-soda-covered cotton ball in the pan.
- Attempt to light it on fire. If the cotton ball is properly coated then it will not catch on fire.
This gives you the opportunity to explain the concept of insulation and fire-proofing. You can discuss how some things will burn while others will not and that this is why people like firemen have special suits that are made from fire-resistant materials.
Experiment (aka Activity) #3 – Edible Light
- Mini marshmallows
- Pixie Stix®
- Pretzel sticks
- Nacho-cheese-flavored Bugles®
- Paper plate
Explain to your student that you are going to learn how to make a camp fire. However, as you really shouldn’t build and light a campfire indoors, you are going to make an edible campfire.
- Create a safety circle or a fire ring, using the mini marshmallows to represent rocks.
- Lay a foundation of pretzel sticks in places of logs.
- Add a bit of tinder by sprinkling a little bit of the Pixie Stix® dust over the “campfires.”
- Add some kindling in the form of broken pretzels sticks.
- Depending on the type of fire you are making, you then add pinecones or charcoal. Our very colorful pinecones were represented by the M&M’s®.
- Next, have the students try to “start the fire”. You can have them try to rub pretzel sticks together or scrape an imaginary flint with imaginary steel. Once they have imaginary sparks they have to gently blow on their fires to cause them to light.
- When you think they have spent enough time creating sparks and blowing on their fires, toss a handful of Bugles® onto their creations. These are the flames and the fires are now lit!
I hope you enjoyed our little foray into the science of light. Be sure to keep an eye on the HEAV blog to see what other things we do as we follow the seven days of Creation!
Michelle, a Virginia native, currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. Active in Scouts, area homeschool groups, and with her family, she can be found on her blog, “Homeschooler on the Edge,” as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.