That is this year’s Flame Challenge from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stoney Brook University on Long Island’s north shore. This is the third year for the contest dedicated to explaining complex science to 5th graders.
Alda challenges scientists to prepare a simple written or visual explanation to answer the question. After checking for scientific accuracy, the answers are sent out to classrooms all over the world for voting. Each classroom gets five explanations and choses their favorite. The students then get the chance to vote online for the finalists and participate via videoconference in a Worldwide Assembly to announce the winners.
The first question was “What is a flame?” Last year’s question was “What is time?” You can see the previous winners in both the written and visual categories on the Flame Challenge website.
Would your answer be different if you were addressing an art class instead of a science class? If you are thinking of sending in an answer, the entries are due by March 1st. I might do it just for the chance to meet Alan Alda!