**What are we doing to help students achieve?**

This has not been a typical year. The pandemic has caused many problems in education. There are some educational experts who have suggested that not only has it caused problems, but maybe it has also uncovered problems. One of these problem is engagement. If there is material that is not overly engaging during a typical year, imagine how difficult it is to engage a student trying to do the same activity virtually. I have really attempted to examine my face to face practices. Can I try to create a better authentic learning experiences and increase the level of engagement? I tried this for my midterm (see the post HERE) and I felt as if I and the students experienced some success at this with an interactive lab practical exam. I decided to try this again.

I started searching for activities on the AACT site. One of the first activities that came to my attention was ¨The Untouchable Key Escape Room¨ by Dr. Elizabeth Christophy.^{1} This activity was also featured in the May 2020 ¨Solutions¨ periodical in an article by the same author, Using Escape Rooms in the Chemistry Classroom.^{2} The basic idea of this activity is that students are presented with a physical key that is wrapped in aluminum foil. They must figure out a way to chemically remove the aluminum foil and retrieve the key without touching it. I have resisted escape room type activities in the past. There seems to be a considerable amount of work in the set up. This activity was different. The prep work for large classes seemed reasonable. Most of my students have not had the same lab experience as in prior years due to the pandemic. I thought that combining a lab practical with an exam would be one more attempt to try to get in some more lab skills and engage students.

First, I listed all of the standards students had covered for the third and fourth quarter. Next to each standard I developed some free response questions that covered the standard and the activity. Some examples of questions were, ¨Can you draw the Lewis dot structure for the chemicals involved in the suggested reaction? Can you balance the equation between the aluminum and the copper (II) chloride? Why would the reaction take place with the aluminum first and then the bronze key?¨ It did not take long to develop questions with the standards.

The next step was to separate out questions and standards that were for the pre lab and questions that students would answer the day of the lab practical. The pre lab questions were given to the students the week before the exam. They had to turn them in before exams started. I thought that it might be daunting to grade so many free response questions but it seems to be easier in a standards based grading system. Instead of having a point scale of 0-100, the point scale is 0-4. It is much clearer and straightforward. Grading always takes time but standards based grading seems to flow much better than other methods.

The day of the lab practical/exam went amazingly well. I paired students based on ability. The exam time was about 90 minutes. The engagement was extremely high. Each group could talk within their group but not with other groups. Since students had help from each other, I made the questions a little more difficult than I usually would. There were many debates and questions within the groups about the different questions, the lab procedure and the possible outcome. Most groups needed some help with the lab procedure due to limited lab exposure. The majority of students were extremely excited when they were able to produce a key. I was able to provide virtual students the option of taking this exam face to face or a virtual exam. The students who were able to take the face to face exam were so excited that they wanted to take pictures of their keys.

I examined the grades of the exam. The majority of the grades mirrored what I thought was the ability of the students. Students who tried hard and worked at the exam did well. Given the year that has just occurred, I was happy and surprised to have it end on a positive note. This is definitely a method that I may continue in the future. Could students use what they learned in chemistry and receive the “key” they needed to escape for their summer? It ended with a “yes!” for the vast majority of students. It was also a great way for us to end a difficult year.

**References**

- Christophy, Elizabeth, The Untouchable Key Escape Room, AACT Classroom Resources, April 2020.
- Christophy, Elizabeth, Using Escape Rooms in the Chemistry Classroom, Chemistry Solutions/AACT, May 2020.

## Safety

### General Safety

General Safety

**For Laboratory Work:** Please refer to the ACS Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools (2016).

**For Demonstrations:** Please refer to the ACS Division of Chemical Education Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations.

#### Other Safety resources

RAMP: Recognize hazards; Assess the risks of hazards; Minimize the risks of hazards; Prepare for emergencies

## NGSS

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data.

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. Use mathematical representations of phenomena to support claims.

Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. Use mathematical representations of phenomena to support claims.

Students who demonstrate understanding can construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.

*More information about all DCI for HS-PS1 can be found at https://www.nextgenscience.org/dci-arrangement/hs-ps1-matter-and-its-interactions and further resources at https://www.nextgenscience.org.

Students who demonstrate understanding can construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.

Assessment is limited to chemical reactions involving main group elements and combustion reactions.

Examples of chemical reactions could include the reaction of sodium and chlorine, of carbon and oxygen, or of carbon and hydrogen.