“No Burning? No Learning!”

class FIRE

[Photo is two grade 9 students at Dalat international school observing a Frito-Lay BBQ potato chip sacrificing itself as calorimetry fuel in a “kinetic theory” lab based on the “Heat” unit in Ron Marston’s “TOP Science” resources.]

It has been about 10 years since a Austin Anderson in my grade 9 physical science class in Toledo Washington coined the slogan: “No burning? No learning!” It was a unit on kinetic theory centered around description of heat energy. Taking a page from TOP Science, one of my favorite resources, I used birthday candles and a lot of matches to explore heat and its affects.

It was one of the points at which I had to make a decision between keep students very safe, or permitting some degree of autonomy and risk in my science class. I opted to encourage exploration and permit risk since I felt it was in the best interest of the students to have first hand experience with learning. There were a few modest burns as students grabbed a recently hot aluminum pie tin in the calorimetry lab or a benign looking microscope slide on which they had just heated was to melting.

One of those “burning” events was when Austin coined the “no burning; no learning” phrase. the engagement of the students far outstripped the aspect of risk. Students enjoyed the learning; students explored and pushed the limits of the activities and made them authentic learning experiences. That is exactly what I like to see in my classroom.

This is a challenge in USA culture as American are famous for their litigious reflex. To me, however, the interest of my students’ learning and the amplified engagement are worth a possible birthday candle burn.

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