Fireworks and How They Work

ClipartBy the early 1800′s, celebrating America’s birthday on the Fourth of July with parades, picnics, patriotic speeches, band concerts, and fireworks had become an established tradition. But even long before Francis Scott Key wrote of seeing “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,” people were amazed by the sights and sounds of fireworks. The ancient Chinese used fireworks at festivities and to frighten enemies in battle. Fireworks became known in Europe during the 1300s, probably after returning Crusaders brought them home from the East. Captain John Smith of Jamestown, Virginia, set off fireworks in 1608 to impress the native Indians. Today, fireworks are just as awesome and entertaining as they’ve always been.

Want to learn more about fireworks? Check out the links below.

Nova Online has a Fireworks Gallery where you can see all the different styles of fireworks. You can also click here for an animated interactive that shows 8 common types of firework bursts.

Want to know how fireworks work? View Nova’s Anatomy of a Firework. See related discussion questions and a background essay on Teacher’s Domain.

The complete companion website to Nova’s “Fireworks!” contains additional resources and a teacher’s guide.

See also: Aerial Fireworks Design and a Professional Firework Display Setup.

Click here to explore Idaho Public Television’s page of fun fireworks facts for kids, and then click here to watch Idaho Public Television’s “Dialogue for Kids” on how fireworks are made (about 28 minutes long; runs in Windows Media Player).

Chemistry of Fireworks – Learn how fireworks get their colors. Fascinating science unit!

Careers 101 – Pyrotechnician – A pyrotechnician is an individual responsible for the safe storage, handling, and functioning of pyrotechnics (fireworks).

Glossary of Pyrotechnics – Fireworks terminology, a long list with definitions.

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