Before she was our faculty chair, Lylli Anthon was a class teacher at the school. Several times throughout the school year, she looks forward to getting back into the classrooms to do science experiments with the students.
She recently did an experiment with the grade seven class in their chemistry block to learn about combustion. In any experiment the first step is for the students to observe carefully and silently, as opposed to being given explanations of the process with the expected outcomes.
The students’ interest and engagement generates questions, and the conversations that follow develop the concept from the observed phenomena. If students carefully observe the details, there is better recall. Then they can always come back to those details to make sense of what is happening around them.
In class, discussing where they have seen this phenomenon in their daily lives holds the students’ interest because now they have a direct relationship to what has just been observed.
The students gather closely around for a good view of the experiment.
Tea light candles are lit by Mrs. Anthon, the grade seven teacher Mrs. Wig, and one of the students, being careful to begin in the middle of the circle.
An early observation shows that the outer wicks are pointing inward while the inner wicks point straight up. This will be a clue in the next stage when a pinwheel is positioned over different parts of the circle of candles.
Mrs. Anthon uses a pinwheel to make visible the activity above the burning candles as the pinwheel turns vigorously. The students observe that the pinwheel stops turning when it moves beyond the range of this rising warm air.
The students carefully feel the range of warming from the candle flames. The class will develop this further in their discussion and come to an understanding of convection currents.