Activity Introduction

QldCoolburn_slowburn-BQuick summary: Students investigate the conditions required to start and sustain fires. They discover that burning is a type of chemical reaction, and design and perform a fair test to accurately collect data. Students explore the requirements for different kinds of burning and speculate about which ones have the potential for being dangerous. They then explore how the knowledge of Indigenous Australians can be used to manage land.

Learning goals:

  • Students recognise the differences between cool and hot burning.
  • Students understand how the concept of a fire triangle can be used to communicate the elements needed to create and sustain fire.
  • Students understand the main steps and safety considerations required in designing a fire demonstration.
  • Students explore how the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Australians can be used to manage land.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, intercultural understanding.

Australian Curriculum content descriptions:

Year 8 Science:

  • Chemical change involves substances reacting to form new substances (ACSSU225)
  •  In fair tests, measure and control variables, and select equipment to collect data with accuracy appropriate to the task (ACSIS141)
  •  Use scientific knowledge and findings from investigations to evaluate claims (ACSIS234)

Syllabus outcomesSC4-5WS, SC4-6WS, SC4-8WS, SC4-16CW.

Time needed: 40 – 70 minutes,  depending on whether the teacher does a demonstration.

Level of teacher scaffolding:

  1. If students are designing their own experiments, they must be overseen and then reviewed by the teacher. 
  2. Consider doing experiments with individual groups one at a time.
  3. If a safe experimental environment can’t be guaranteed, consider doing a teacher demonstration.

Resources needed: Digital projector or Smart Board, candles, matches, taper, hand water pump sprayer and Pyrex beakers.

Digital technology opportunity: Prezi presentation tool, responding to videos, digital sharing capabilities.

Assessment: See the rubric at the end of the teacher worksheet.

Extension opportunities: Examine the work of your state’s firefighters.

Safety: Ensure your students remain safe around fire and that they understand the potential risks if fire is not used responsibility. 

Key words: fire, oxygen, chemical reaction, heat, flame, smoke

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum. There is great diversity in histories and cultures among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout Australia. This resource includes investigations into and information about some of them. It has an emphasis, but not an exclusive one, on the histories and cultural practices of the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory. It is underpinned by consultation with Aboriginal communities in various parts of Australia. 

Special thanks to:

Fish River Station, John Daly, Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith, Peter Jacklyn, Peter McConchie, Dr Tommy George, David Claudie, Dale Musgrave, Carolyn George and Victor Steffensen.

Made possible by:



Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation:

Overarching goals: Students design an experiment that demonstrates the role of heat, fuel and oxygen in the burning process. They classify different kinds of burning and speculate about which kinds have the potential for being dangerous. Students explore how cool burning can be used for land management.

Teacher content information: Burning is just one kind of chemical reaction. A chemical reaction occurs when chemicals combine to form new substances with new properties. Burning is a rapid type of chemical reaction that produces large amounts of heat and light. An example of a fast chemical reaction is an explosion, such as the exploding of fireworks or a bomb. An example of a slow chemical reaction is rusting (or oxidisation).

One of the chemicals produced during burning is carbon dioxide, which we now refer to as a 'greenhouse gas'. Later, we will also consider other chemicals that are produced during burning, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

Chemical reacti

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Student Worksheet

Thought starters: what types of fires are there?

Step 1: Tuning in - hot and cool burns

Watch the video below and complete the thinking routine table.

VIDEO 1: The problems of hot burns -


How are the ideas and information presented CONNECTED to what you already knew?



What new ideas did you get that EXTENDED or pushed your thinking in new directions?



What is still CHALLENGING or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings or puzzles do you now have?


Step 2: Designing an experiment

Your group is to design an experiment that explains 'What is needed to keep a fire going'. You are to identify the roles of fuel, heat and oxygen.

You will only have access to the equipment provided by your teacher.

Fill in the Experimental Design Table below and then show your teacher.

Experiment Design criteria rubric




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