Seven activities to ignite a passion for STEAMM

It’s bonfire night and thousands of people in the UK will be waving their sparklers around a bonfire or staring up at the fireworks lighting up the night sky. Fire has always captured the human imagination, but it’s the scientists, engineers and doctors who are the real stars of the show.

Celebrate bonfire night – or Diwali, Independence Day, Chinese New Year – and ignite a passion for STEAMM education (science, tech, engineering, arts, maths, medicine) with these seven brilliant activities.


1) Chemistry – What makes those fabulous colours in fireworks?

Fireworks are packed with just the right mix of chemicals to create a showering display of colour – and it’s the metal salts or oxides that create the glittering array of blues, reds and greens.

Live Science explains the chemical reactions behind the colours.

Science Buddies shows you how to experiment with different metal salts to make your own colourful display.

2) Physics – How do fireworks work?

The launch, fuse, burst charge and colourful, showering stars are all a matter of physics. The conservation of energy – a fundamental law of physics – explains how the chemical energy trapped inside a firework converts to heat, sound, light and movement.

Explain That Stuff summarises the physics behind fireworks, along with their history and chemistry.

Physics Girl has a video showing you how to make a “firework” display with milk, food colouring and washing-up liquid.


3) Computer Studies / ICT – What can you do with the Fireworks app?

Abobe has a graphics application called Fireworks, which is designed to enable users to create vector and bitmap graphics for websites.

Teach ICT has created a fun Fireworks lesson with simple instructions on how to create a penguin.


4) Engineering – who holds the Guinness World Record for the largest firework display?

Grucci, a professional fireworks company, holds the world record for the largest firework display. All displays require a certain level of engineering – even positioning the fireworks correctly, for example – but the shows put on by Grucci present huge engineering challenges.

The Guinness World Records explains the incredible feats of engineering behind the firecracker that weighed 1,087.26 kg (2,397 lb) and spanned an area of 1 km when it exploded.


5) History – Who was Guy Fawkes (John Johnson) and why did he want to blow up Parliament?

How can anyone not be intrigued by a tale of gunpowder, treason and a plot to blow up the UK’s Houses of Parliament?

The National Archives has lots of primary historical evidence for students to get their teeth into and experience the thrill of history – from a letter received by Lord Monteagle warning him of the “terrible blow” that was about to happen, to a signed confession from Guy Fawkes.


6) Maths – How much money can you make from selling hotdogs on bonfire night?

Maths is used all the time in everyday situations, and yet so many people believe they’re no good at maths.

Oxford University Press has produced a bonfire night-inspired maths worksheet that will have any budding entrepreneur making money in no time!


7) First Aid – What should you do if you burn your hand on bonfire night?

According to the BBC, nearly 4,500 people ended up in A&E in 2017 with injuries relating to fireworks. Grasp some of the basics in medicine with all-important first aid.

St John Ambulance has some excellent advice on what to do if someone experiences an injury on bonfire night.