Fire Forensics from XPLORLABS is a free Middle School Science STEM Lab

XplorLabs Fire Forensics: A Free STEM Module for Middle School Science

UL Xplorlabs is making the world a safer place through science. For example, their Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence unit is a safe way to educate middle school students about fire. This unit teaches about fire while meeting Next Generation Science Standards. Generally speaking, this free interactive STEM lab takes 2-4 days to complete and includes extension science experiments that you could add to the unit.


This blog post is sponsored by UL Xplorlabs.

Fire Forensics: A Free STEM Module for Middle School Science

The Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence module is designed to

“provide students with the understanding of fire, fire dynamics, and fire behavior so that they can read a fire scene and build a claim for the fire’s location of origin and cause.”

As it has been noted, UL (Underwriters Laboratories), the creator of Xplorlabs, is a global safety science company. Consequently, they work to foster safe living and working environments for people. (Not only are the UL Listed safety marks for many of the appliances in your house from this company, but they also are creating free science-based modules that promote safety like this one.)

Each learning module is designed to connect classrooms to real-world science and engineering. After testing it, I found this middle school science unit to be full of interactive video, online experiences, classroom activities, and challenges. For this reason, I think kids will love the real-world interactivity of this unit.

Data analysis is part of the second step of this online, interactive middle school science lab from XPLORLABS. This online, free STEM Lab is interactive and engaging and is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

Data analysis is part of the second step of this online, interactive middle school science lab from Xplorlabs. This online, free STEM module is interactive and engaging and is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

How to Get Started With Fire Forensics

As I demonstrate in the Unboxing video (above), before clicking the “Getting Started” button in the Fire Forensics Module, download the Teacher Guide and take a look at the science experiments that go along with the module. This Guide includes:

  • Rubrics
  • Fire Lab Safety Instructions
  • Safety Data Sheets for each activity including PPEs (personal protective equipment)
  • Supplies and summaries of labs, including outcomes and assessment tips

You can have students watch the video module on their iPads, Chromebooks, or other devices, or you can project it on your board and go through it as a class. After you download the Teacher Guide, I recommend that you go through the entire unit on your own to prepare.

What science standards are taught in this unit?

  • MS-PS1: Matter and Its Interactions (MS-PS1-2 and MS-PS1-3)
  • MS-PS3: Energy (MS-PS3-5)
  • Common Core State Standards (See more on the Fire Forensics Site)
    • RST.6-8.1, RST.6-8.3, RST.6-8.7
    • WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.7
    • RST.6-8.9
    • MP.2
    • 6.SP.B.5

Cost: FREE

Time Required:

2-4 class periods minimum for the online activities (but additional extension investigations will take more time).

The Stages of the Lab

1 – Fire Investigators in Training

Students start by becoming “fire investigators in training.” They prepare to identify and analyze fire scene evidence.

2 – Examination of Evidence

Students check out two UL Fire Lab burns of full-sized structures that were conducted under different experimental conditions. After the experiment, they’re able to examine different burns side by side while changing only one variable — ventilation. Additionally, UL fire scientists share what they can observe in each burn. Students will also use charts to learn how to analyze the burns.

3 – Learning From an Expert

Students will walk through a fire scene with a burn investigator. They’ll learn to build a claim as they understand the cause of a fire and where it started. At this stage, they’ll understand the scientific method for analyzing the clues. Then students will prepare to create their own investigation.

4 – Solo Investigation

Students are now ready for their own investigation. Using the online interactive experience, they’ll work their way through the burned structure seeking the evidence to determine the fire’s cause and place of origin. Students are building their claim for how the fire started as they seek four or more pieces of evidence to enter into the notebook.

5 – Submit Your Claim

Finally, students submit a claim from their independent investigation of what they think happened in the kitchen burn.

6 – Compare Results

After students complete the experience, research engineer Dan Madrzykowski will share the fire’s origin and cause so that students can see where they were correct. They can also compare their own claims with other students’ claims.

Additional Experiments

This unit includes additional extension experiments:

  • The Fire Triangle: Understanding oxygen, fuel, and heat — the needs of fire.
  • Heat Transfer and Ignition: Students learn how different materials ignite and burn.
  • Fire Lab Data Analysis: Students learn about the impact of ventilation on a fire.

There are additional extension activities associated with the other module available via UL Xplorlabs, Portable Electrical Power, which focuses on lithium-ion batteries and “explores how batteries convert energy, introduces the phenomenon of thermal runaway and inspires students to think like a scientist to identify essential construction and performance requirements that address the inherent risks a product could present.

  • The Bologna Test: Students observe the energy from button cell batteries and can understand the dangers from child ingestions with this experiment.
  • Tensile Test and Durability: Students learn about the types of testing that safety engineers put materials through.
  • Thermal Test: Students will learn some typical ways that batteries can experience “thermal runaway.” Students assume different roles as they conduct this experiment.

Download the Fire Forensics Teacher Guide and Get Started

In conclusion, UL Xplorlabs has created a fantastic science module for teachers on a key topic for middle school science. I also like the fact that you can mention the importance of fire safety and talk about the UL labels that we all have on our appliances as well. This can be a challenging topic to teach and discuss because of the dangerous nature of fire. I think Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is a must-use module for middle school science teachers everywhere to use. Enjoy!

Fire Forensics Screenshots from the Xplorlabs free STEM lab for middle school science

Screenshots from the Fire Forensics lab. This is a great free STEM lab activity for middle school science teachers and a safe way to teach about fire.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies that I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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