This is a collection of the activities I do with my own kids to celebrate our nation’s most important day. We do things like sing national songs together (mostly out of tune), read the constitution piecemeal to see who can remember the most words, color national flags, learn the anatomy of our national animal, test each other’s knowledge by taking quizzes, mapping out the country and its states and capitols, get totally lost in mazes, discover the secrets of the great seal, go on themed treasure hunts, and most importantly, cook together to make a fantastic meal for everyone to share.
Even if you live in another country, you can still use this document as inspiration for writing your own to honor the country and its hardworking people. Feel free to adjust this to use for your family as you see fit, and many happy fireworks to you!
Make your own Fireworks!
Here are a couple of cool videos to get you started learning about the science of fireworks:
All of the following experiments require experienced adult help and supervision to ensure safety. Please don’t let your kids experiment with these on your own. Some of the more advanced experiments are restricted to upper level grades.
What is Fire? Fire is a combination of different gases and hot plasma. It’s a complicated exothermic (gives off heat) chemical reaction that releases a lot of heat and light (you can feel and see the flame). You need three things for a flame: oxygen, fuel, and a spark. When you take away one of these three, you snuff the flame and stop the chemical reaction. You start with fuel (usually contains carbon), and add oxygen to get carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and many other gases and leftover ash. Most flames are hot enough to heat the gas mixture to create tiny bits of plasma within the flame, so fire is actually involved in two states of matter. Perform a magic trick with fire and a dollar bill
Sparklers Sparks flying off in all directions…that’s fun! In this lab, advanced students will learn how easy it is to produce those shooting sparks. In a sparkler you buy at the store, the filings used are either iron or aluminum. The filings are placed in a mixture that, when dry, adheres to the metal rod or stick that is used in making the sparkler. The different colors are created by adding different powdered chemicals to the mixture before it dries. When they burn, we get red, blue, white, and green. Make your own Sparklers
Colored Fire We’re going to discover how to transform the color of your fire, and then we’ll look at the colors through a special instrument called a spectroscope to see the different light signatures. This is how astronomers can tell which fuel a star is burning. By looking at the “fingerprint” of light given off during the reaction, you can see which elements are burning in your campfire. Make your own Colored Fire
Smoke Bombs We’ve made our own smoke bombs in may different colors, and as far as fireworks go, they’re pretty safe in terms of the big picture. But they are still dealing with chemicals and fire, so please be careful when you do this experiment! We’re going to use potassium chlorate as an oxidizer along with a fuel and a third chemical to control the chemical rate of reaction so it doesn’t burn too hot. Make your own Smoke Bomb
Black Snakes I vividly remember a black snake firework on the curb of my driveway when I was very young, but what even impressed me more was the black spot that was left there for years and never came off! This black snake (or glow worms as they’re often called) are actually long tails of black ash created from burning sugar. Although these are usually marketed as “safe” fireworks for kids, they contain chemicals (like mercury) that aren’t safe for kids to play with, even through they don’t explode like a traditional firework. We’re going to make a solution of stuff from your kitchen to create a homemade firework with some adult help. Make your own Black Snake