Science/Physics KS2/KS3: Seeing through smoke - the heat camera

Pupils visit a Fire Safety teaching centre to learn about fire safety and fire drills.

A fire-fighter demonstrates the use of breathing apparatus and the ‘BA Shuffle’ technique for walking through a smoke-filled room.

Focusing mainly on the dangers of smoke, pupils are provided with two types of night-vision camera which will enable them to see in the dark.

One uses infra-red light and the other is a thermal-imaging camera.

They are asked to carry out comparative tests on the two cameras, comparing their ability to detect objects and people, in both the light and the dark.

Using their observations they are asked to report on their findings and decide which would work best in a smoke-filled room, explaining their choice.

They then use their chosen camera in a simulated fire-rescue situation, successfully locating and rescuing a person from a smoke-filled room in the dark.

The children choose the thermal-imaging camera, explaining that it will detect the body heat from a human.

This short film is from the BBC series, Operation Awesome, in which students explore a range of amazing practical science challenges with presenter Steve Mould.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 2:

This is an effective example of the application of science to real-life contexts.

Your pupils could produce a fire-safety poster and could suggest safety issues when putting out various types of fires.

They could use it to form the basis of discussion on planning different types of scientific enquiry when working scientifically.

When learning about how we see objects, by visible light reflecting off surfaces, this could be used to provide cognitive conflict by asking pupils to explain why we cannot see through smoke.

Key Stage 3:

This is an effective example of the application of science to real-life contexts.

Pupils could discuss why visible light cannot pass through smoke.

They could use this as a stimulus to further study on the different wavelengths of light in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Alternatively, it could be used as part of a teaching sequence on how we see objects, with pupils explaining why light does not travel through smoke, and why our eyes cannot detect infra-red light.

The use of the thermal-imaging camera could be used when teaching about respiration, to illustrate that some of the energy released is produced as heat.

When learning about types of chemical reactions this could be used to stimulate discussion on the reactants and products of combustion.

Pupils could then learn about the fire triangle and how to tackle different types of fire.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching science at Key Stage 2 or Second Level in Scotland, or physics at Key Stage 3 or Third Level in Scotland.

It is relevant for teaching the following topics: Light & Dark (colours, how we see and the transmission of light through different materials), Fire & Safety, Chemical Changes (combustion as a chemical reaction), Science Skills.

More from Operation Awesome

Will pulleys allow children to beat Britain’s strongest man?
Will gears let children pull a piano uphill with their bikes?
Helicopter rescue and the science of floating
How to make the fizziest bath bomb
How dinosaurs footprints get made in solid rock
How to calculate the height of a dinosaur from its footprint