Outdoor Education: Fun Campfire Facts

Outdoor Education: Fun Campfire Facts

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education Update.com

Campfire time on outdoor trips present you with a great cross-curricular opportunities. While you're sitting around the fire, toasting marshmallows and listening to the hoot owls, here are some scientific facts about campfires that you can tell your students:

  • A campfire can reach temperatures of 900ºF (480º C) - hot enough to melt soft metals such as lead and zinc.
  • The colour of the flames comes from soot, which becomes incandescent when hot and emits thermal radiation in the form of red or bluish-white light. The red light comes from the coolest part of the fire, while the bluish-white comes from the hottest.
  • Elements in the wood, such as sodium, also emit coloured light as they burn.
  • If burning in a space capsule, the flames would be circle-shaped because of the lack of gravity.
  • A small portion of a fire's flame is composed of plasma - a fourth state of matter that is like a gas but acts differently. It is, essentially, a gas into which enough energy has been applied to free some of the electroncs from their nucleus, although these electrons continue to travel with their nucleus. In fact, most of the universe is composed of plasma, although we tend to think is it either solid, liquid or gas. The biggest hunk of plasma that we are familiar with? The sun...and most of the other stars.

References: 1. Jefferson Lab - Science Education - What is Plasma?
2. Martin Zibauer, "Trade Cool Flame Facts," Cottage Life, August 2007.

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