Activities

Acid, Base, pH and Food Chemistry

Muffins

I try to examine activities an multiple levels. First on the list, I want to know if my students will be engaged and learn something. Second, how difficult is it for me as a teacher to actually pull it off? One of the most important questions...are the students learning chemistry or just having fun? This is the first year I have attempted the following activity.  tudents were engaged in the real world connection, they asked questions, it transitioned into some chemistry concepts and even some parents got involved. The activity involved acid, bases, pH and food.

Time required: 

An evening of baking (about an hour at home) and a day in class.

Demonstration: Reaction of Magnesium and Silver Nitrate

Starting materials for demonstration

I found a version of this demonstration online a couple of years ago. I admit, when I first tried it with my class it was mostly for a crowd pleaser to demonstrate the activity series of metals, but I then became very intrigued by the processes occurring. The original source only referenced the “single replacement reaction” between Mg(s) and AgNO3(aq). Therefore, when I saw a grayish product (silver) I was not surprised. However, I was surprised by the white flash and the production of a white product, which were reminiscent of the classic combustion of magnesium demonstration. This led to some research and my conclusions that follow. Read through to the end and you will find a video of the demo.

Time required: 

30 minutes including preparation time.

Boiling Water, Heating Curves, and Can Crushes

In an effort to better understand my high school students' knowledge of what is happening during phase changes, heating curve calculations, and the ever popular can crush demo, I run them through a series of activities. First, I ask my students "What Temperature Does Water Boil At?"

Time required: 

1.5 days to do all the activities including lecture on heating curve calculations.

Creating an Organic Chemistry Reaction Pathways Flowchart as a Unit Summary

Student generated reaction pathways flowchart

For a recent unit on organic chemistry for my IB students, I tried something new. I gave them a handout with a list of organic compounds (by class/functional group) and a list of mechanisms and reaction types. Their task (in small groups), using either butcher paper or a large whiteboard, was to create a flow chart of reaction pathways.

Time required: 

30-45 minutes

The Case of the Barking Dog

hydrogen test

To grasp the concept of oxidation and reduction reactions, I have my high school students write half reactions to show the loss and gain of electrons by the substances being oxidized and reduced. To help with this concept, I developed a quick lab activity involving the reaction between magnesium metal and dilute hydrochloric acid, which in turn led to the students collecting the hydrogen gas and then testing for its presence.

Time required: 

50 minutes