The Hindenburg Disaster

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SWBAT explain that hydrogen (gas) is dangerous and helium (gas) is not.

Big Idea

The Hindenburg Disaster brought an end to the age of the rigid airship. The disaster killed passengers and crew members. But, what caused this disaster? How does understanding this disaster relate to properties of matter? Investigate and find out!

Bell Ringer - KWL

10 minutes


I want to know what students know about The Hindenburg Disaster so, using technology, I develop a formative assessment on the website Padlet. Using a link through Google Classroom, students access the Padlet that I've created where I ask them to respond to the questions:

"What do you know about the Hindeburg disaster? What do you want to know?"

On the Padlet, students could write what they know or (SP#1) ask questions about the disaster. Students are engaged when using technology in the classroom and this type of formative assessment provides immediate feedback. The whole class can see student responses on this "live" site as I project the website and responses on the classroom projector.

After discussing student feedback from the Padlet question, I show The Hindenburg Disaster video to help develop background knowledge about the disaster. I want students to watch the video, build background knowledge, and then share some information learned.

The Hindenburg Disaster

Article - The Hindenburg Disaster

20 minutes

Leveled Reading Groups

Working in small groups, students read about The Hindenburg Disaster. Students work with peers to read, learn, and reflect on the text (article). As students read in small groups, I ask them to highlight science vocabulary terms or domain-specific vocabulary related to matter such as: hydrogen, gas, flammable, property, element, dense, physical property, chemical property.

As students read, they RST.6-8.4 determine the meaning of key terms and other domain-specific words, RST.6-8.8 distinguish among facts and reasoned judgements based on research finding and speculation in a text, and finally RST.6-8.10 read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 complexity band independently and proficiently.

Using student reading levels or Lexile levels, I pre-determine small reading groups where students meet with peers, read the text together, highlight key terms, and discuss what they learned. When students work in small groups, they become active rather than passive learners.

First, I circulate the classroom to assess student engagement, then I work with a group of low level readers to encourage collaboration and a deeper understanding of the text. 

Pros, Cons, & Facts

5 minutes

Pros, Cons, & Facts

To deepen understanding of the concepts, I ask students to reflect on the pros and cons of this type of airship. Students identify interesting facts about the disaster and explain why using hydrogen (gas) was dangerous, but helium (gas) would not be. Students are learning about the physical and chemical properties of matter and to MS-PS1-2 analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred

I ask: Why is using hydrogen (gas) dangerous, but helium (gas) is not? Answer: Hydrogen is flammable (explosive), a chemical property, but helium is not.

It is important and best practice that students share out reflections with their peers. To grow their thinking, students need to listen to other student's thoughts, so I take two (2) minutes for students to share their answers to the class.

Padlet - A Formative Assessment

5 minutes

Padlet - A Formative Assessment

I develop a formative assessment on the website Padlet. Using a link through Google Classroom, students access the Padlet that I've created where I ask them to respond to the question "What did you learn about The Hindenburg Disaster?" Using technology and the online tool Padlet is a quick way to formatively assess my student's understanding of the lesson.

I ask: What did you learn about The Hindenburg Disaster?

  • I learned that hydrogen is flammable because it may be the main reason why the Hindenburg burned up.
  • I learned that hydrogen gas is dangerous because it's flammable and it burn explosively.
  • I learned that the Hindenburg exploded after crossing the Atlantic Ocean because the ship had very flammable hydrogen inside of it.