At our summer camps, classes, and events, magic comes to life with the help of our amazing heroes and monsters. Characters leap from the pages of storybooks. Mysteries and surprises lurk in every corner, nook, and cranny. Adventure becomes real! Our adventures aren't the only place where magic can become tangible. In this wide and weird world of ours, and with the help of some STEM-based thinking, magic can be uncovered in even the most common of places...
Lightning has been present in legends since the beginning of storytelling. It has symbolized power, energy, destruction, intensity, and even been the iconic symbol of many famous characters. Lightning acted as the thunderbolts thrown by Zeus and as the lightning strikes of the hammer of Thor, Mjölnir, aired with the sound of thunder as Thor's chariot rolls across the sky.
Our heroes are often using their magical abilities in battle, but to harness the power of lightning heroes must learn how lightning occurs in nature in order to conjure it properly. Ice crystals within a storm cloud fly about, crashing into one another, which causes the positive electrons to gravitate towards the top of the cloud and the negative electrons towards the bottom, closer to the positively charged surface of Earth. Ready for something truly wild? The positive charge from the planet will stretch upwards to reach the cloud. That's right... lightning actually travels up! Turns out some parts of nature aren't as simple as we might initially think. So what else in the sky can turn heads in a fantastic way?
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
The Aurora Borealis, commonly referred to as the Northern Lights, have captivated people for centuries. The early Viking legends told of Odin, ruler of Asgard, enlisting the Valkyries, female horsebound warriors, while he prepared for Ragnorok, the battle to end all battles. The Valkyries would create beautiful streaks of light in the sky as they rode towards Asgard. The Sámi, indigenous Finno-Ugric people, believed the lights to be the souls of those departed. It was common knowledge to never look at the lights or else they might reach down and take you with them to the afterworld. Many indigenous Native Americans also believed the lights to be reflections of passed souls, some good and some not so much. Either way, the Northern Lights have always been revered as mystical, owners of a power that must be respected.
While the lights are beautiful, they can also have some pretty spectacular powers in a Story School adventure. When the darkness is closing in, heroes might attempt to banish an ancient entity of evil. To do so the heroes must know how to summon celestial light.
Earth's thin upper atmosphere is home to nitrogen and oxygen molecules. When the light's electrons reach the upper atmosphere, the collision with nitrogen and oxygen sends all of the particles into an excited state. The excited electrons will calm down over time and thus release a blinding light that can shine down to us, giving us the phenomenon that is what we see as the aurora. So, particles can make lightning and beautiful lights. What else could they cause?
Perhaps one of the most prominent natural phenomena in folklore and legends, fire has fascinated humankind since the dawn of early intelligence. The ancient Greeks told stories of Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods and gifted it to mankind, only to be punished eternally for the theft. Dragons and Phoenixes harness the power of flame as elemental beings, revered by countless ancient and modern cultures. More often than not, fire is associated with destruction and evil... not to be taken lightly!
Many monsters on our adventure will possess elemental powers, some of the strongest creatures being those that can harness the power of fire. Understanding how a fire works can be an extremely valuable tool when confronting one of these monsters.
Fire comes from a chemical reaction referred to as combustion. Fuel and oxygen react with one another, causing atoms and particles to rearrange irreversibly. Once a high enough temperature has been reached, combustion can occur and can continue if there is enough fuel, heat, and oxygen to keep the flames burning. The hue of fire can yield some colorful clues about the flames. Red fire has the coolest flames while whiter fire creates absolutely scorching heat.
So there you have it: magic truly can be found in many of the nooks and crannies of this fantastic world of ours. So get outside, go experiment, learn some STEM, and see what amazing phenomenon you can uncover on your own grand adventure. In the meantime, we're always here to supply you with plenty of inspiration. Contact us today to find the perfect educational adventure for you or your young hero. Huzzah!