Tell Me a Story

Tell me a story

Just as our lives and various circumstances have a story, so do our laboratory experiences. Often the labs we do lack context but we expect students to buy in to the experiment without knowing the what, where, or why of the story. What makes this lab worth doing? What question(s) are we trying to answer? Why was someone exploring this in the first place?

Self-Healing Concrete

Typically we think that the wear and tear of automobiles on the roads causes concrete roads to deteriorate, eventually causing potholes and requiring the use of patching. Regular maintenance, like patching, gets expensive over time. If we were to zoom in on a microscopic level we’d see microscopic cracks that allow in water, salts, and ice. Since ice has the ability to expand, the tiny little cracks will become big noticeable cracks.

Spring Fever, Stoichiometry and Specific Heat


From the looks of things, we are all in the same boat. Spring fever. I had two groups of students. Both are ending 3rd quarter, looking out a window at the first nice weather we have had in weeks. Most are already planning their spring break vacation and some have left early. Notice, not much talk about chemistry. The curriculum said it was time for stoichiometry for one group and specific heat for another. Just what the kids wanted to do (read with sarcasm).

An Unexpected Source of Inquiry-Based Lab Practicals


Each spring my Local Section of The American Chemical Society (ACS) hosts a rigorous two part exam as part of the selection process for the The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO)  IChO is an annual international competition for the world’s top chemistry students. Each year, nations from all over the world will send teams of four to compete for top honors.

Time required: 

45 minutes

Four Ways to Fight Spring Fever


How can I engage my students (and myself) for the last half of the semester? I read recently that the human attention span in 2015 is 8.25 seconds(link is external), which is down from 2000’s 12-second span. Currently, we are just beneath goldfish, who can attend to one thought for 9 seconds. I’m not sure of the methods of the research study, and I maintain a level of healthy skepticism. However, I admit my thoughts often spring from topic to topic like a bubble gum machine bouncy ball.

Especially JCE: March 2016

Is the cover of the March 2016 issue (see photo) of the Journal of Chemical Education a familiar scene? It is to me. I’ve spent many hours surrounded by shelves full of books and journals, in all of their papery goodness. Paper was the mainstay of my undergraduate searches in the chemistry library, although computer searches (to lead me to paper) also played a role. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically, with far-reaching effects on both students and educators.