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Fireworks have been a spectacle for many hundreds of years. These days they are controlled by timers and displays are created and detonated using computers.  

Fireworks happen when gun powder builds up pressure inside a carboard shell with enough force that it goes up into the air and explodes with all the colours we see in the night sky.

The different coloured fireworks are made using different metals inside the cardboard shells such as:

  • Red – Strontium
  • Green – Barium
  • Blue – Copper

Just like mixing up paint, to make a purple firework you would need to use Strontium and copper inside.

The problem 

Fireworks are really bad for the environment and people. They cause lots of air pollution and release large amounts of Carbon Dioxide which is one of the causes of climate change which is having a negative impact on our environment. 

The metal particles that make fireworks different colours can also be bad for animals and people. To add to the problem, to produce the oxygen needed for an explosion, many fireworks contain oxidisers known as perchlorates (these are used by NASA to start rockets). These can also dissolve in water which has a terrible affect and can contaminate rivers which means the oxidisers kill wildlife, fish and the water plants they eat and live in.

These impacts are negatively affecting more people than just those who watch the firework display in their local area. 

As well as not being good for our environment the gasses that fireworks emit can cause breathing problems for animals and humans and the loud bangs can cause distress.

It’s not all doom and gloom

There are some people out there working to make more eco-friendly fireworks and firework alternatives. Such as Dutch artist  Daan Roosegaarde who has created a firework alternative display using  a combination of design and technology, thousands of bubbles made of biodegradable materials float through the air, lit up by well-aimed lamps. The bubbles look like light sparks floating in the wind, reminiscent of fireworks, but without the noise and air pollution. See a video and find out more about it here.

Group Activity

Have a discussion with your group about their thoughts on the affects fireworks have on our environment. You can use the information about to help guide the discussion and use starter questions such as ‘how do they make fireworks different colours?’ and ‘other than pollution caused by fireworks exploding, what are the impacts on our environment?’

Ask the group to think of alternatives to having a fireworks display

Here are some suggestions that can help guide you to develop your ideas:

Make Elephant Toothpaste. If you use food colouring you can create a display with different colours. This works by the oxygen forming bubbles. These bubbles would usually escape from the liquid and disappear quickly. By adding a little dish soap there is more surface tension, this means the oxygen gets trapped and created lots of foam which looks just like toothpaste, only not for a human, but for an elephant! This is a fun activity and experiment and isn’t harmful to the environment, make sure you have some materials to clear up any toothpaste mess!

Fireworks in a jar

Mix Oil and food colouring together and put it into a jar of water to create your fireworks in a jar. This is a great way to make fireworks all year round.

Fireworks Paint

Get a big piece of paper (or stick some small ones together) and lots of different coloured poster paint. Use a paintbrush to flick the paint onto the paper to make your own fireworks image on the page. Alternatively, if you are prepared to get messy, use your hands to throw or flick the paint onto the paper.

Please do share with us if your group creates a display or their own fireworks, you can share on social media and tag @WoodcraftFolk or get in touch via email to

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