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Starting Them Young

20 Dec 2013

In 2013 there have been many events to commemorate Harry Brearley’s discovery of stainless steel. Many of these have been in the public domain. However, there have also been other events in the background which may in the end prove to be at least as important. One such is a series of lessons about stainless steels given to a class of 5 and 6 year olds by primary teacher Joy Harrison.

She started off the lesson by talking about Sheffield being famous for something and did anyone know what that was. They didn't.!!!! She then showed them a picture of Harry Brearley and told them about stainless steel. She then used a guessing game where a picture was slowly revealed on the board and they had to put up their hands as soon as they thought they knew what it was. Once the object was revealed they talked in pairs about why stainless steel had been used to make that object. This included familiar applications like cutlery, kitchen knives, a kitchen sink and a washing machine drum. The children wrote a few words saying what properties of stainless steel were good for that object.

It then got quite technical. She showed them how austenitic stainless steel becomes magnetic by trying to stick a magnet on each end of a tensile test piece. She also explained how cold working can make austenitic steel very strong and “springy”.

Their natural curiosity has clearly been aroused as they have been checking their cutlery during the lunch session to make sure that it is stainless steel!

Miss Harrison uses a fun character called Discovery Dog to get the children thinking. In one lesson, Discovery Dog asked the question:

Is stainless steel always “stainless”? To answer this they have embarked on a long term corrosion experiment by immersing samples of stainless steel in different liquids:

• Water
• Salt water
• Vinegar
• Tomato ketchup
• Bleach

After 3 weeks, just before the end of term they examined each of the samples. The salt water, vinegar and bleach all had signs of corrosion. Apparently, the children can’t wait to find out what will happen during the holidays! We will keep you up to date with developments during 2014!


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