Breaking Up with Combustion

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This activity teaches combustion as the interaction of a fuel source and oxygen. A burning candle is observed, then extinguished—first by a glass cup placed over it to cut off the oxygen supply, then using carbon dioxide generated by vinegar and baking soda. Some background information is provided about how car engines use gasoline as fuel, and how humans use food as fuel— both are similar to how the candle uses wax as fuel. The activity is written for a kit that can be checked out of the library, but the kit is not required.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 8

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • 1 tea light candle
  • notebook
  • pen or pencil
  • matches
  • glass cup
  • vinegar
  • test tube
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Fire Protection Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
    • Energy
      • Work and Machines
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
    • States of Matter
      • Gases
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Metabolism
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Human Body
      • Respiration
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Shaw, Maisie ; Gomez, Maria


  • All rights reserved, Passport to Chemistry Adventure Program, Mount Holyoke College, 2010

Funding Source:

  • Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.