As COVID-19 cases increase across the country, more states and cities are releasing mask guidelines to help slow the spread of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of cloth face coverings, and more than 20 states have mask requirements in place.

Still, many people question whether face masks provide adequate protection from the coronavirus. As schools reopen and require students to wear face coverings, they may also question the importance of wearing a mask while in the classroom.

To help settle the debate, William Sanford Nye, popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, took to social media to demonstrate how masks can protect others from COVID-19 and potentially save lives.

View his video here:


Why Wearing a Mask Is Important to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Wearing a mask to protect yourself and others against respiratory infections is not a new concept. Masks and respirators are commonly used by healthcare workers, sick patients, and well community members to protect others from contracting an infection.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is spread from person to person, typically through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. Various studies have confirmed that wearing a face mask—in addition to social distancing, proper handwashing and other procedures—can help stop the spread of the virus.


Mask vs. Candle: Testing the Efficacy of Various Face Masks

The CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings, but people are using a variety of masks to cover their faces. In this experiment, you will test three different face masks: surgical, cloth, and a bandana/handkerchief. The experiment will help you to demonstrate whether the material can effectively block particles from your respiratory system from escaping into the air. (Note: This experiment requires adult supervision.)

What You Need

  • Wax candle with stand
  • Lighter or matches
  • Surgical mask
  • Cloth mask
  • Bandana or handkerchief
  • STEM journals
  • Other materials that can be used to cover your face, such as a knitted scarf, construction paper, and so on

What to Do

  1. Place the candle firmly into the stand, and set it on a flat, hard surface. Make sure there are no flammable materials surrounding the candle.
  2. Light the candle (adult only).
  3. Cover your face with the bandana/handkerchief and try to blow out the candle. Have students record the results in their STEM journals.
  4. Relight the candle (if needed), and repeat step 3 to test the cloth and surgical masks. Have students record the results in their STEM journals.
  5. Explore more and test other materials, such as construction paper, scarves, costume masks, and so on.
  6. Discuss the results as a group. Which face covering was most effective? Which was least effective?
  7. Share the following study, which identifies the best types of COVID-19 face masks.


Many schools and after-school programs are opening or have already opened, and students are often required to wear masks. This experiment can help you demonstrate the importance of face coverings and how the right mask can help protect them from the COVID-19 disease.