Fire Fear

This lesson is inspired by the literary journal, Fire started by Langston Hughes.  After observing the Harlem Renaissance resources, students will write a personal fear on plexiglass, clay bowls, or alcohol ink hard core panels using a crayon, then drip and spread color using alcohol inks.  Once the inking is complete, the teacher will place a lighter flame (use safety precautions) on the alcohol ink design.  The fire quickly extinguishes leaving a crisp marbling design causing the fear to disappear.  Note: You may do the activity without the addition of fire using clay bowls or pots and still have a finished design.  Once complete, discuss symbolic connections to social justice and history. 

  • Marbling - the action or process of making like marble especially in coloration

  • Blackout poetry -  is when a writer takes a marker (usually black marker) to already established text—like in a newspaper—and starts redacting words until a poem is formed only using the words provided in the text


  • 1 set of Alcohol inks

  • Candle lighter (optional)

  • Small pieces of plexiglass, clay bowls, or alcohol ink hard core panels

  • crayon

  • Paper towels 

  • Gloves


  • Harlem Renaissance videos

  • Fire activity & Blackout instructional video

Instructional Resources

  1. Watch instructional videos and gather materials.

  2. Discuss common fears and encourage students to select a fear they possess.  Students write a fear onto a hard core panel, plexiglass or clay dish using crayons.

  3. Using alcohol inks, students drizzle various colors onto the chosen surface.  If using panels or plexiglass, carefully light the wet ink on fire.  The fire will extinguish on its own very quickly.  Repeat this process until the fear is completely covered and the colors are desirable.

  4. Discuss how the artwork is a symbolic reminder of how to combat fears.  Then discuss the fears people of color have faced in the Harlem Renaissance era and present day.


  • 5.3RE Evaluate the relationship between works of art and human experiences

  • 8.3CO Discover how cultural differences impact personal perceptions

  • 7.2PR Explore materials to design and create works of art

  • RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Ohio Education Standards


Fear causes a loss of courage in the presence of terror, fright or danger.  This emotional reaction can be challenging to combat.  Social justice faces fears in order to create an equitable society.  In this lesson, students will use art and chemistry to fire their fears and create a starting point for discussing the fears people of color endured during the Harlem Renaissance and continue to experience today.

  • Group activity - as one large group or a few small groups, students transcribe multiple fears onto one surface, then take turns pouring inks to create one design.  Together, everyone observes the flame as it diminishes and solidifies the surface.

  • Garden - Use the alcohol inks to design a flower clay pot.  Then plant a seed and watch it grow over time; replacing fear with something beautiful (another symbol of freedom or combatting fear.



Students write a self-reflection once the project is completed which answers the following questions:  What was the lesson?  What did I learn?  How will I apply this knowledge?