Mouth Lightning

Light Up Lifesavers Experiment

GRADE LEVEL: 6

TOPIC

Making Lightning in your Mouth

STRAND

Understanding Matter and Energy

EXPECTATIONS

  • PRIOR KNOWLEDGE

Students have already focused on these Expectations from the Grade 5 “Understanding Structures and Mechanisms” Strand. Specifically:

1.1. Analysed the effects of forces from natural phenomena (e.g., tornadoes, lightning, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis)

3.1. Identified internal forces acting on a structure (e.g., compression [squeezing], tension [stretching], force [pressure])

With this experiment, students will now focus on the “Understanding Matter and Energy” Strand in Grade 6.

  • OVERALL EXPECTATIONS

1. Evaluate the impact of the use of electricity on both the way we live and the environment;

3. Electrical energy can be transformed into other forms of energy.

  • SPECIFIC EXPECTATIONS

3.5. Identify ways in which electrical energy is transformed into other forms of energy

MATERIALS REQUIRED

  • Dark Classroom
  • Wint-o-Green LifeSavers (One for each student)

SETUP

Here’s a science lesson with some real bite to it! Shoot lightning sparks from your mouth by chomping on some Wint-O-Green LifeSavers.


SAFETY CONCERNS

  • Only have students who do not have sensitive teeth participate in the experiment.
  • If students have a hard time biting down on the LifeSaver, have students suck on the mint for less than a minute to soften it.

STEPS
  • Handout a LifeSaver to each student. (NOTE: Only hand out to students who do not have sensitive teeth.)

  • Have students pair up and face one another.

  • Turn out the lights and get the room as dark as you can.

  • Once it is nice and dark, wait for a few minutes, to let everyone’s eyes adjust to the darkness.

  • Have students break the LifeSaver with their teeth and mouth open. (NOTE: Students may suck on the LifeSaver for under a minute so it is not has hard to bite down on.)

  • As students chomp on the LifeSaver they will see sparks in their partner’s mouths.

  • Have students finish chewing and sit back down to their seats.

  • Explain why the sparks happened.

EXPLANATION

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

  • Sparks appear in our mouths due to a light that is produced when certain kinds of materials are rubbed together.

  • Chemical energy is stored in all kinds of materials. The Lifesaver contains sugar crystals. When you put pressure on these sugar crystals, they become charged with electricity.
  • The sugar crystals in Lifesavers have a positive charge at one end and a negative charge at the other. This electricity provides excited nitrogen molecules with extra energy otherwise known as pressure.
  • When the pressure is strong enough, the crystal can produce a spark.
  • However these sparks are too small and dim to see in regular candies and mints. That is why it is crucial to use Wint-o-Green flavored Lifesavers.
  • The flavoring used in Wint-o-Green Lifesavers is Methyl Salicylate. This chemical will convert ultraviolet light into blue light.


CONNECTING THIS EXPERIMENT TO LIFE EXAMPLES:

  • Similarly, Lightning is a stream of electricity that excites nitrogen molecules in the air.
  • This electricity provides the nitrogen molecules with pressure, which the nitrogen molecules then release as visible light.

ACHIEVED GOALS

  • Students will identify and describe the forces acting on and within the LifeSavers.
  • Students will see sparks due to the pressure forced on the LifeSavers.
  • Students will examine the principals of electricity.

ATTENTION GRABBER

  • Start with a scenario that has the student's attention. For example if you are doing the experiment after lunch mention that they have stinky breathe.
  • Lead into giving them each a LifeSaver.
  • Mention how these are special LifeSavers. For example, state that not only do they freshen breath, but they also create lightning!
  • This will create curiosity and lead into the experiment.