Fire Department Leads Students Through Real-World Science Experiments

For two days, fifth grade students at Bellevue Middle School took their STEAM classroom learning to a new level through a series of unique and exciting experiments showcasing changes in matter.

More than 200 students were able to take their textbook learning and witness the concepts in action by using creative materials, thanks to the Nashville Fire Department (NFD) and Captain Wilkerson, a 40-year veteran of the department.

In the classroom, students study changes in matter from gases to liquids to solid – and back again. The NFD made a special classroom visit to safely lead students through real-life examples of these physical and chemical transformations – a direct connection to standards-based learning in the classroom and hands-on applications outside of the classroom.

Capt. Wilkerson led students through nine different science experiments, including:

1.      Dry Ice Stair Case – Capt. Wilkerson showcased students how a solid transformed into a gas by letting carbon dioxide “fall” down the stairs, thereby, snuffing out the candles.

2.      Butane in a Bag – This experiment showed the transformation of a liquid into a gas.

3.      Cryogenically Frozen Gummy Worms – This experiment combined water, dry ice and antifreeze creating a cryogenic liquid that instantly froze gummy worms.

While it was a fun and engaging assignment, throughout the entire process, Capt. Wilkerson connected the real-life dots for students. He explained how these exercises were very similar to how firefighters in the HAZMAT division identify substances quickly in the field. Understanding a substance’s properties, and how it interacts with other substances, is critical to remaining safe on-the-job. HAZMAT teams use this knowledge to quickly react under immense pressure and make the appropriate response plans.

“This was an amazing experience for students,” said Kate Finn, one of Metro Schools’ district STEAM coaches. “It brought the science concepts they have been studying to life and opened up career connections with the Nashville Fire Department. We are so grateful for Capt. Wilkerson and the Nashville Fire Department’s investment into these students and our STEAM program.”