Burning Questions About a Candle

Observation and Asking Questions

Attached here is a printable form that has most of the questions and directions below, but with space for you to write in your answers and observations while you work. Have fun!

Observations to make before you light the candle

Answer the following questions concisely. That is, use short sentences or sentence fragments, and only say what really needs to be recorded. You may want to work in pairs or small groups, each writing down observations, then periodically comparing notes and asking each other questions. If you do it this way, just remember: don't make critical comments! Be critical in your thinking, in the sense of always asking yourself "What does that mean anyway?" and not in the sense of "That's clearly wrong" or "What a dumb observation." Be positive in your approach, focus on the candle, and keep asking yourself questions in your own mind, especially questions that lead to further observations and more questions.

What is it made of, chemically and physically?

What are the individual parts and what are they made of?

How is the candle shaped? Why?

Do some physical "tests" on the candle using what you have on you or laying around the room. What do these tests tell you about:

Hypothesize what will happen when you light the candle and start it burning

Write down what you think in terms of the observations you made above, especially with regard to the three levels of organization of matter at the:

Use a separate sheet of paper and be complete but concise.

Now light the candle and watch what happens

For the first set of observations, don't worry about asking questions so much as just making as many quick notes as you can:

Take one observation that you recorded above and:

Now pick another observation or two and carry out the same level of in-depth analysis.

Testing Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

After you feel like you have made enough observations to give you a pretty good understanding of what is actually happening during the burning process, it is time to do an experiment:

If you are creative, you should be able to design experiments that can be done with what you have laying around the lab or that you can easily acquire with very little effort. For example, holding a piece of glass over the candle as it burns (probably at an angle would work better) can help you answer questions about what is evolved or given off during the combustion process. Think of other simple ways of investigating further what is going on and see what kind of good experiments you can come up with.