Creating a Culture of Nerdy

Bravo Nerdy awards

It all started with a couple of summers spent on fellowships at the Institute for Chemical Education at the University of Wisconsin: Madison. In 1990 after two years of teaching high school chemistry I transferred to help open a school to specialize in Health and Medical education. I was 23 years old and ready to take on the world. The school’s student body was high poverty, 96% of the students qualified for the federal lunch program, and almost the entire student body was classified as minority. It was a good first year.

This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.

The Two Words Every Chemistry Student Needs to Learn

student whiteboard using "for every"

Teaching students the proportional reasoning skills needed for stoich doesn’t have to be that daunting. By adjusting how your students talk about stoich, you will adjust how they think about it; eventually, they’ll proportionally reason in a more effective manner.

This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.

Dance Your Final Project

Dance Your Final image

As part of advocating science literacy in my classroom, I have my 10th grade Honors Chemistry students dance their first semester final. This Dance Your Final semester final is to force students to actually read real, published scientific research; have a group final; eliminate test anxiety; and help students have fun with the content. Truly, of all assignments I give during the school year, this is the one that students say they sweat the hardest on, enjoy the most, and are the most proud of their work.

Stop trying to get your students interested in chemistry!

roasting coffee bean research project

Because my teaching philosophy assumes that both quality and quantity of learning increases with interest in subject matter, I have spent years exploring ways to engage my students in chemistry (of course fire, explosions, and color changing reactions are certainly helpful). I have recently begun using an approach that I have found to be quite fruitful, albeit counterintuitive: I don’t try to get my students interested in chemistry. You read that right. I don’t try to interest my students in chemistry. Rather, I get to know the hobbies and interests of my students. Then I work to demonstrate how chemistry relates to those activities.

This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.

Periodic Table Websites and Apps - An Update

Periodic Table of Tech

With the start of the school year quickly approaching or having already started for others I wanted to take this chance to update a few resources regarding some periodic table websites and apps for you and your students. 

My First Lab of the Year

measuring volume and mass of water

My first experiment involves measuring the density of water. Each group of two kids is assigned a specific volume of water from 10 to 100 mLs on the tens. They simply measure the mass of an empty graduated cylinder and then add the water and find the mass again. Once they have their data they go around the room and find another group that has one of the volumes that they need and get the data from them and record their names. Once complete they generate a graph of the data and answer a few simple questions. The whole procedure can be completed in about 20 minutes.

Time required: 

10 minutes prep

20 minutes classtime

Building a Blended Culture in a Secondary Science Classroom

building a blended culture

During my first year of teaching (in Indianapolis, IN), I was inspired by some research I had read as well as some other teachers in the Indy area who were flipping their classes. I was at a small parochial school where parental and administrative support for technology inclusion was present. My principal outfitted me with the tools I needed to “flip” my classes and record tutorial videos. Things went pretty well. It was a learning curve for many but I also had good feedback from students and parents.

This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.

Life as an international school chemistry teacher

Lowell - International School teacher

The advantages of international schools vary by individual, but certainly the opportunity to travel and see the world is by far the most common reason teachers move overseas. Smaller class sizes are typical, along with fewer teaching periods in your schedule. As an example, I average about 20 students per class right now, teaching 5 of 8 class periods. This is certainly less than my average of 30-35, teaching six of eight class periods at my last public school in the U.S.