Many young children will tell you that fire is alive because they can see the flames move and hear the fire crackle! As children grow up they come to understand the transformation and sometime destructive nature of fire. As high school students, they may begin to understand that fire is the energy given off by a chemical change happening. (2,126) (3, 46-48)
A child who is blind will not see a fire; a child who is deafblind will not hear it crackle. But all children can feel the warmth of a fireplace from a safe distance and smell the fragrant smoke.
Here are a number of suggested activities to help young children who are blind or deafblind become familiar with the properties of fire. Please follow all fire safety rules when doing these activities!
Encourage the child to examine the inside of a cold, clean, empty fire place. Then together place the grate in the fireplace with the logs. After placing a screen in front of the fireplace, sit with the child in front of the fireplace at a safe distance. Ask someone to light the fire and describe/sign to the child what is happening and what you see. Encourage the child to notice the warmth coming from the fire and to smell the smoke.
Much later when the fire and fireplace are again cold, show the child the remnants of the fire. Let the child feel the cold ashes. Talk/sign about the wood changing to ashes and how the ashes feel. They may feel slippery! In late elementary school or middle school students learn that ashes can be used to make soap.
Activity #2: Toast Marshmallows
Over an open campfire toast marshmallows together using a very long “green” stick. Ask the child to feel the marshmallow and to eat one before toasting any. As the marshmallows are being toasted by the adult, and as the child gets older the child can become increasingly independent at this task, notice the smell of the campfire and the warmth. Let the marshmallow cool before giving it to a young child. Ask the child to describe/sign what the toasted marshmallow felt and tasted like. The mouth-feel with be quite different. Then, of course make some som’ores!!
Activity #3: Build an Edible Campfire
Another activity, popular with young Girl and Boy Scouts is building an edible campfire! This activity does not teach much about the properties of fire, but might be fun to do before the activities of using the fireplace or being at a campfire. (1)
First, collect all your supplies and tie back long hair. Even better wear a kerchief, as it keeps the “ashes” out of your hair. A paper plate will represent the safety circle which in reality is 5 feet away on all sides for the fire circle. A small cup filled with water represents the water bucket made of metal. (A metal camping cup is best!) A spoon and fork will be the rake and shovel needed at every fire. Toothpicks are the match to light the fire! In addition you will need raisins, M and M’s or jelly beans to be the rocks around the fire ring. If you do not want this to be an edible fire small stones will work for this part.
If you are continuing with the edible fire theme, use potato sticks or shredded coconut for the smallest pieces of wood used to get the “fire” started. This is called "Tinder". For kindling which helps the fire increase in size use small pretzel sticks, and for the "Fuel" logs use large pretzel sticks or bread sticks. If you are going with a non-edible fire use a variety of small sticks corresponding to the sizes needed. The fun part of this activity is that a variety of different materials or food can be used! And when the children are older, they can be in charge of building the fire even if they cannot see or hear it!!
To build the “fire” place the paper plate safety circle on the table, then set the “water bucket” cup and the tools nearby. Then make the fire circle ring about 2 inches from the edge of the plate. Make an A-shape or a V-shape with the “logs”. Make sure the open end is facing the wind. (Ask the children if they can notice the wind in their faces!)
Use the tinder to build a small teepee shape inside the A. Then put in a few pieces of kindling. Use the toothpick “match” to light the fire. For an edible fire, use candy corn to represent the flames. For a non-edible fire, cut pieces of tissue paper or stiff cloth into a flame shape. Tactually examine the fire and enjoy!
Building an EDIBLE FIRE - Scouting Web http://scoutingweb.com/scoutingweb/subpages/ediblefire.htm
Keely, P, Eberle F. and Farrin, L. Uncovering Student Ideas in Science: 25 Formative Assessment Probes Vol. I NSTA Press, 2005, page 126.
Padilla, M.J. Ph.D., Miaoulis, Ph.D., and Cyr, M. Ph.D. Chemical Interactions: Prentice Hall Science Explorer, Pearson, 2009, pages 46 to 48.