This post is sponsored by UL Xplorlabs
My 11 year old, Thomas, is fascinated by fire. He’s been building campfires since his Cub Scout days and as an older Boy Scout, he relies on them to cook meals, for warmth on chilly days, and he loves making s’mores to end a day of camping. Thomas also knows how destructive fires can be to the great outdoors and homes. Recently, however, he got to understand the science of fire and had the chance to experience how fire investigators look for clues to pinpoint the cause of a fire, through UL Xplorlabs’ module, Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence.
Designed by UL Xplorlabs to increase scientific literacy and student engagement, Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is a free, interactive educational module that teaches an understanding of fire to middle schoolers. Using the science of fire dynamics and fire behavior, students act as junior fire investigators to collect evidence and solve the mystery of the cause of a fire.
Videos and interactive elements provide an opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of the principles of fire. As they complete the module, they’re required to use their knowledge of the science of fire to read a fire scene and build a claim for the fire’s location, origin, and cause.
Teachers and parents will appreciate that these free, ready to use resources meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and serve as a fun and interactive way for students to learn from scientists and engineers who are solving real-world problems.
Using Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence to Teach Fire Forensics
Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is a completely free, ready-to-use resource that meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as well as Common Core Standards. It consists of interactive videos, instructional experiences, hands-on classroom activities and creative challenges where students use their knowledge from the module to determine the origin of a kitchen fire.
The interactive videos and multimedia investigations make it fun for middle schoolers to learn from scientists and engineers, solving real-world problems. There are also teacher and student guides to deepen their understanding of the principles of fire and scientific discovery, which can be taught in flexible ways.
Students are introduced to the fire forensics academy through a couple of interactive questions about fire investigations and evidence, which set the stage for learning how science is used to pinpoint the cause of a fire.
After clicking the responses to their questions, middle schoolers are taken to the “Inside the Fire Lab” overview that includes a video that tells them there’s been a fire.
The Inside the Fire Lab section introduces students to Dan, Steve, and Kelly, the three STEM professionals who serve as their guides for the module and talk about learning how fire behaves and the evidence it leaves behind.
Steve describes fire investigation like reading a story backwards, where you enter the story on the last page, only seeing the end result. He describes how fire investigators need to look for evidence such as char, lines of demarcation, smoke patterns, and other clues which help solve the case!
The video draws kids in through the mystery aspect of fire forensics, and also sets the stage for the learning that will occur throughout the module. With their curiosity piqued, students learn discover that their task is to learn how to investigate the cause of the blaze and then build a claim based on evidence and reasoning.
Here’s a look at the Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence video that serves as an introduction to the learning activities that follow.
Following the video, middle schoolers will progress through different activities as part of Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence. These lessons can be taught individually, to an entire class, in the sequence, or in any order you choose. Here’s an overview of the five lessons in the module.
The Investigators Academy allows students to develop an understanding of fire forensics and the basics of fire, to become a fire investigator in training. Four key elements are taught through the Investigators Academy that serve as necessary background knowledge.
Middle schoolers will learn the following to successfully complete the Fire Forensics unit:
- How fire is defined
- How fire develops
- How a fire behaves
- How to build a claim that is supported by evidence and reasoning
The module begins with a video featuring Dan, Kelly, and Steve. Dan talks about how their work as fire investigators is more than a job. They work to discover why fire starts and help fire professionals reduce and eliminate fire losses. Steve mentions the predictable ways that fire behaves, even though it may seem chaotic. The Investigators Academy video and videos in the other lessons can be watched as many times as needed or skipped to move on to other information in different parts of the module.
The next section in the module includes audio that discusses what is fire. Students learn that fire is a gas-phase chemical which emits heat and light. They learn terms such as “pyrolysis” and “combustion”, another word for fire that results when fuel gases mix with oxygen and are ignited.
While the audio moves quickly, students who need more time to process can click the Key Takeaways button (in the upper right-hand corner) at any time to see a written version of what they heard. There’s also a video (in the bottom right corner) that shows how a lampshade can pyrolyze so students can see this in action to further their understanding of the term.
With Key Takeaways on the right, video visuals on the left, and additional video content to provide concrete examples of new learning, material is understandable, accessible, and presented in a variety of different ways so all students can be successful in learning about fire forensics.
Analyze the Burn Data
The UL Fire Lab burns full-sized structures using different experimental conditions. With guidance from UL fire scientists, students compare two controlled burn scenarios in the UL Fire Lab in order to analyze burn data from a fire. Using video from the burn, students analyze the data from the two different burns, and fire scientists show students how a single variable – such as ventilation- can impact a fire.
Investigate with an Expert
Investigate with an Expert is a guided investigation where middle schoolers walk through a burn scene with an expert investigator to learn how to build a claim to explain the cause of a fire and where it started. Kids will learn why fire investigators work backwards, looking for clues left behind and how the scientific method aids in their investigation. The guided investigation gives students a chance to refine their fire investigator skills before they complete their own independent investigation during the final learning activity.
Your First Solo Investigation
Your First Solo Investigation requires kids to use what they’ve learned to search through fire evidence. Kids will work their way through a burned structure to find pieces of evidence to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Their goal is to comb through the fire scene and find at least four pieces of evidence that they can click to add to an interactive notebook, which helps them build their case as they investigate the mystery.
Submit Your Claim
Using knowledge gained from the previous lessons plus evidence gathered during their independent investigation, students write their own claim to share how and where the fire started. The first screen includes drop down menus where students can select the location of the fire’s origin and cause, and can then click on the pieces of evidence that they added to their interactive notebook.
The final step involves submitting the answers to the following three questions:
- What is your claim? Where did the fire start and what was the cause?
- How does your evidence explain where the fire started?
- How does your evidence explain how the fire started?
Once the claim has been submitted online, middle schoolers can watch a video to learn how the fire started. Written claims can be printed or emailed to teachers as evidence of completion.
5 Reasons to Incorporate Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence in Your Classroom
Besides being a topic that can be difficult to teach in an interactive way in your classroom, here are five additional reasons to incorporate Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence into your curriculum:
- Engaging way to teach STEM topics. 1 out of 5 STEM college students decided to study STEM in middle school or earlier because their interest in the subjects was sparked by a teacher or interest in a subject matter. The six sections in the module expose kids to fire science and fire forensics in interactive ways while highlighting the detective-like nature of a career in fire forensics.
- Expose students to a topic and career path that can be difficult to teach in a classroom setting. 73% of low-income teens have little or no exposure to pathways to careers in science, and UL Xplorlabs does a great job of introducing middle school aged kids to a career as a fire investigator.
- Flexibility. There is no one way to teach Fire Forensics. The modules are flexible to complement science, engineering, and technology curriculum. Elements of the module – the interactive video, online experience, classroom activity or challenges, can be done individually and in any order.
- Materials meet Next Generation Science Standards. The UL Xplorlabs components are carefully created to align with NGSS. Crosscutting concepts, application of science and engineering practices, and attention to disciplinary core ideas are thoughtfully integrated in age-appropriate ways. The landing page for the module lists the specific standards covered.
- Lesson extensions are available for differentiated instruction and additional learning. From fire safety infographics to print and hang in your classroom, to experiments, the Xtensions section of UL Xplorlabs is full of additional resources to enrich classroom learning.
About UL Xplorlabs
UL Xplorlabs is a Next Generation Science Standards-aligned, module-based educational platform that encourages middle schoolers to solve real-world engineering challenges through science. Interest in science often declines as students approach middle school. The purpose of Xplorlabs is to rekindle that passion and excitement. The modules build scientific skills and knowledge, while sparking interest in the role STEM plays in our technology based world. There are two Xplorlabs modules—Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence and Portable Electric Power.
This post was sponsored by UL Xplorlabs but all opinions are my own.