The Flame Lab

It’s not every day that you’re allowed to play with fire at school, but Dragons in David Oliver’s fifth-period chemistry class recently made flames in the name of science. In a Mid-Pen Minute, Dragons observe the characteristic colors produced by specific metallic ions when vaporized in a flame.

“It’s a complicated lab,” said science teacher David Oliver. “The first priority is always student safety, and in this case, I don’t want them to be intimated by using a bunsen burner.” 

David adds that students need to follow the exact process of the experiment, step by step. Working in teams of three, students dipped a wooden splint into water and then coated the end of the splint with an unknown sample of powder. One Dragon carefully inserts the wooden splint into a bunsen burner flame, while another uses a spectrometer to record the wavelengths of the metal’s visible atomic spectrum. The third student observes the experiment and documents the results. Based on the analysis of the flame color and the wavelengths, they determine which metallic ion substance they were testing. 

"I enjoy seeing the connection students make between learning in theory and then seeing it applied in the classroom," David said. His students were definitely wowed by the experiment.

Wondering what metallic ions are burning that beautiful green flame at the end of the video? It’s copper!

Watch more episodes of A Mid-Pen Minute.