14 and 17 August Science 8 Breathing and Burning–what do you think? (Lego Analogy and Periodic Table)

We will form pairs arbitrarily today. (Groups will be formed throughout the year by different methods). No matter what group you are in, it is expected that you will do your best, that you will contribute positively, and that you will work with good will to have a successful collaboration. How well you participate in group work directly relates to the Respect and Collaboration learning habits.

Start keeping a list of the people you work with. Include name, date, activity, contact information.

Read this short piece on breathing. The ideas relate to ideas we will examine throughout the year. Think about what you know and what you think you know about oxygen, for example. The author of the piece wants the reader to be more mindful about some fundamental ideas, like, “oxygen has to come from somewhere,” and to realize the significance of these ideas and other details because breathing is something we all must do to stay alive.

Use this strategy for reading (even text that you find difficult): Read an entire passage through without stopping to look up words or to translate. You could do a paragraph, a page, or the whole piece. Then write a summary of what you have read. Compare this initial understanding with a partner and/or with your group. This technique emphasizes what you do understand rather than what you do not. This positive approach will help your reading develop much more than stopping for every word you do not know. Then you should go back over the passage and look up / translate ONLY words that you think are critical to the meaning. In all efforts to comprehend, you will want to identify the BIG IDEAS and the SIGNIFICANT DETAILS. Check your understanding through discussion with others. Sometimes you may miss something; other times you may have found a new perspective.

Begin keeping a vocabulary list for words and phrases used in the class that are new to you. Practice using the words in your discussions and writings. Keep this list in your digital science notebook.


Here is another short article published this past June. It is about water–and especially water in India. Again, the author wants the reader to realize that an important substance, one that you must have to stay alive, responds to human activity in certain ways, and those ways of behaving depend on the properties of the substance. This year we want to examine what the properties of important substances like water are and what the consequences of these properties are for determining the behavior in the environment.


Last week, we ate some watermelon, drank some water, and breathed some air as a part of an introduction to the study of matter. Today we want to carry on with our investigation by examining a fairly common experience, observing a burning candle flame. The great English scientist, Michael Faraday, claimed that whole of chemistry could be treated just by carefully considering all aspects of a candle. (Faraday–Chemical History of a Candle: See this website with videos, free text, commentary, activities, etc. <http://engineerguy.com/faraday/>.The co-author, Dr. Don DeCoste, and I shared an office at the University of Illinois in 1994-95. We were both completing our Ph.D.’s . We also had some of the same graduate mentors on our respective committees.)

Things to do today–finish as much as you can–be sure to create a complete entry for your digital science notebook:

  1. Listen to and note all the safety guidelines. You will be using flame. You must be careful. (Those with long hair must pull it back. Everyone must wear eye protection. All must use materials properly, carefully, respectfully. No joking around. The flame is hot. The melted wax is hot. Do not burn yourself or others)
  2. Review the use of the triple beam balance. Zero the balance. Check your ability to read the scales.
  3. Find the mass of the candle. Record it.
  4. Set the candle in the container provided. You may need to light it first and let a little wax drip onto the container and then rest the end of the candle in the puddle while it re-solidifies.
  5. Light the candle. Keep track of the total time the candle is lit.
  6. Carefully observe the flame. Record
  7. Sketch the flame indicating any “structure” you notice. Label your sketch.
  8. Note the shape of the flame.
  9. Note the shape of the area where the wick meets the wax.
  10. Note the colors of the flame and the regions.
  11. We will turn off the lights.
  12. With a flashlight and a notecard screen, try to view and both sketch and photograph the shadow of the flame.
  13. Also try to the a photo of the flame with as much detail as you can. You can try with the lights on and with them off.
  14. Compare your sketches of the flame and its shadow.
  15. Compare the photos of the flame and its shadow.
  16. Be sure that you are writing down thoughts and questions you have about your observations. Discuss your ideas and questions with your partner? What are some possible explanations for what you see?
  17. While the candle is lit, carefully turn it upside down. What happens? Why do you think that might be?
  18. Take an unlit candle and hold it upside down. Light it. What happens?
  19. Weigh the candle and any of the melted wax after the candle has been burning? How does the mass compare before burning and after burning? How long did the candle burn between these two weighings? How would you explain the result?
  20. Light a second candle and hold the flame 2-4 cm from the flame of the first candle. Gently blow out the first candle flame and then move the other flame in to the smoke from the first flame. Do you have to touch the wick in order to get the candle to relight? Write your observations below. What does this tell you about the part of the candle that is burning?
  21. Place approximately 150 ml of ice water in a 250 ml beaker. Dry the outside of the beaker. Hold the beaker about 4-5 cm above the flame. Look for the formation of a new compound on the bottom of the beaker. Note: you may see the formation of black soot on the bottom of the beaker. That is not the compound that we are looking for. If you see soot, you are probably holding the candle too close to the flame. Record your observations.
  22. Pour water in to the pan that the candle is in to a depth of 1cm. Quickly lower the mouth of the Erlenmeyer flask over the candle so that the mouth of the candle is below the surface of the water. Hold the flask in place and carefully observe the system and record your observations.
  23. Without taking the mouth of the flask out of the water, slip your hand to cover the flask or fit a stopper into the mouth of the flask. Turn the flask right side up and examine the result. How might you explain the result?
  24. How could you test your ideas? Be prepared to share your thoughts.
  25. If there is time, and if there are no safety hazards, carry out some of your test. Check with Dr. F first.
  26. Be sure that you have a written account of what you have done, what you have seen, what you have talked about with your partner, and what you have thought and wondered.
  27. Make a sketch of your possible explanations for the things you have observed.
  28. Faraday claims at the end of his lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle that the burning of a candle is essentially the same thing as respiration. What do you think he could possibly have meant?

Watch some or all of the lectures recreated by Professor Bill Hammack http://engineerguy.com/faraday/

Find out more about Faraday: https://www.famousscientists.org/michael-faraday/

See Dr. F’s pictures below–you can probably do much better:


A Lego Analogy–how can all the different kinds of materials be composed of only a limited number of building blocks?

  1. Work with your current partner.
  2. You will get a set of legos.
  3. Describe the different pieces that you have. Determine the “properties” or “characteristics” of lego pieces. Make an organized chart. (Lego pieces should not be mixed between groups of students.)
  4. Record your ideas, questions, observations, etc. in your notebooks.
  5. Predict how many different objects you think you can make. Give reasons for your prediction.
  6. Begin constructing new objects with various combinations of the lego pieces. Observe and describe each new object. Develop a systematic way of recording your creations.
  7. After some time, stop and  compare across groups how many different objects students have made. Record and share your comments and questions.
  8. End with a discussion about atoms and molecules; elements and compounds.
  9. Find out what you can about the periodic table. See what free apps you can find for your ipads. Explore appropriate apps and websites.
  10. See this Periodic Table done in Haiku. < http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6350/461> Here’s an interactive table: <http://vis.sciencemag.org/chemhaiku>.
  11. Pick out 5 elements. Examine their properties on the standards table and then look at them on the Haiku table. Interpret the haikus.
  12. What is the main idea with the lego analogy to the atomic theory of matter?

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