October 6, 2011 in Elements

Brilliant white light illuminated the debut of our 3rd year of MLP fun, as flames of magnesium (Mg) fire brightened the 4th grade students in Ms Reavell’s class on Friday the 13th of March, thanks to Team Mg composed of Zac Kenny (BA Art Education, Concordia U) and Sixian Lin (B.Sc. U Montréal).   Requiring more heat than the match used to start a wood fire, an alcohol burner was used by Sixian to ignite magnesium metal, which is protected from the oxygen in air by a thin layer of its oxide.  Watching the burning magnesium, the students were fixated on this oxidation process that produces magnesium oxide, the latter when poured into water formed magnesium hydroxide “milk of magnesia”, a medicine used commonly as a laxative and antacid.  The students were reminded that magnesium is the metallic ion at the center of chlorophyll, and is an essential element for plant survival commonly added to fertilizers.   Moving from the lab to the classroom, where tempera paints and Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate from the mineral Epsomite) were waiting, the students were engaged by  Zac, who explained how to experiment  with the effects of the magnesium salts on the wet water colors.  As the students painted and salted, the applications of Mg were further enumerated in discussions that touched on uses in automotive and truck components, because Mg is strong and light and magnesium chloride as a “Green” alternative for salting in winter, as well as in the body, Mg is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions!

Seeing the light and feeling the delight of the essential element magnesium, the students thanked Team Mg for their illuminating MLP project.