Transforming Misconceptions into Positive Learning Tools

Stepping Stones

“What we Call Misconceptions May be Necessary Stepping Stones Toward Making Sense of the World” is an article identifying how misconceptions can be turned into sense-making exercises and classroom conversations to help students come to meaningful, and eventually “correct” views of scientific concepts.   

Hydrate Labs, Microscale Chemistry and Cage Fighting....

Bottle cap set up for hydrates

For years my students would heat the hydrates in glassware, burn themselves, break the glassware and splatter salts and thus their data, all over the lab bench. A few years ago Bob Worley came up with a great microscale technique. Essentially, it takes a used bottle cap without the plastic and this is used as the dish. Next, there is about a three inch machine screw that goes through a drilled hole in the cap. A nut is placed on the screw to hold everything in place and cheap pliers are used to hold the entire assembly over the flame.

The World's Biggest Flame Test....

LightBuckets.com

Most chemistry teachers I know do flame tests with their students. It ties in well with many topics, is colorful and the kids enjoy seeing the colors and burning stuff. There are many applications. For years I always mentioned that astronomers use the idea of the flame test. They simply look at stars and examine the spectra from the light of these stars. They then match the spectra with the elements and then they can see and infer what elements are millions of light years away. I always mentioned this but never was able to demonstrate it. 

The Hindenburg

Teaching the Hindenburg disaster in the chemistry classroom.

I have always been intrigued by the story of the Hindenburg, the iconic airship that caught fire on May 6, 1937. The accident killed 35 of the 100 passengers and crewmembers on board. As a chemistry teacher, I discuss this from a chemical standpoint and the fact that the airship was filled with hydrogen, a flammable gas, rather than helium, a non-flammable gas, as today’s modern airships are.