Rocket Fuel for the School Year.....

BCCE 2016

How can we work together to help students achieve?

How can we make this achievement visible?


BCCE 2016 was an amazing couple of days. It is kind of like drinking from a fire hose. Here were some high points that you might find helpful.  As one participant was heard saying, "It is kind of like rocket fuel for the school year."


Playing and Learning - Dr. Sylvia Esjornson from Southwestern State Oklahoma University is a wonderful teacher who believes that play and learning should be connected. She handed me two cards and told me to observe them and  find one characteristic that both cards have in common. She then asked me to find a way to connect that characteristic to science. It stopped me in my tracks and made me really think hard very quickly. She then asked another question, “What does your brain feel like?” Out of my comfort zone but good….and that is how she wants her students to approach science. I think I found my opening day activity.


Superstore Chemistry - Cynthia Peck, Brian Aldrich, Jonathan Gittins and Bernadette Harkness from presented a session using simple items from the store to teach chemistry. They had so many good ideas that there is not enough space in this blog to present all of their ideas.  The biggest take away was the modeling they presented using nuts and bolts. I have attempted this in the past but they did it in a way that was far superior than anything I have ever tried. They had some simple, quick activities that addressed stoichiometry, limiting reagents and percent yield. There is a bit of a set up but once it is done, it will work for years.  Not only is the hands on part nice but their method really addresses students strengths and weaknesses.


AACT-The first year the American Association of Chemistry Teachers started I joined immediately. I am kind of embarrassed to say that I let my membership lapse. I have rejoined and I would encourage others to do so as well. They have everything from webinars, simulations, films, videos, professional development opportunities, an electronic periodical, blogs and they are adding more and more each month. This fall they will also have more professional social networking. The Science Coach program is well worth the price of the membership. It is a great way to get $500 for your classroom.


If you don’t follow Doug Ragan, you should start now.  Many teachers start with “bell ringers”. He has taken this to a new level with short video clips. Was Indiana Jones really that smart when he substituted sand for a gold statue in the first Indiana Jones movie? In “Oceans Eleven”, are a couple of people really be able to carry 350 million dollars in bills? How much would that weigh?


“Atomsmith”.  If you want your students to be able to visualize some concepts that are hard to visualize such as orbitals, reaction energy and molecular geometry to name only a few (O.K...almost all of chemistry) Atomsmith can help you. Good news...they now have a pretty good online version.  The visualization of orbitals is the best I have ever seen. They also have some great models of reactions and the energy changes of those reactions. Give it a shot and play with it a will be amazed and encouraged.


Puddle Chemistry and the Microscale - and “puddle chemistry”. Bob did many great things but the one that sticks out is the way he had us examine the reaction of Fe(NO3)3 and KSCN. Place about a nickel size “puddle” of water on an acetate sheet. Carefully place a crystal or two of Fe(NO3)3 on one side of the puddle and then place a few crystals of KSCN on the other side of the puddle. Slowly push the crystals in the puddle and a blood red line slowly forms as expected. Now place a neodymium magnet near the clear side of the puddle and watch it attract the blood red liquid. The magnet is attracting the paramagnetic Fe+3.


Periodic Properties and LED lights - from Beloit demonstrated a novel way to show periodic properties with LED lights. In a nutshell, each LED light is made up of different metals with different ionization energies. George has his students examine the chemical make up, find the metals on the periodic table, predict the ionization energies and then use that to determine the colors. After his students predict the colors, they then test their predictions. George’s method discusses orbitals, light, a little LED technology and periodic properties.


 - Perhaps you have done POGIL activities. What about POGIL labs? Stacey Fiddler (Portland Community College), Michael Garoutte (Missouri Southern State University) and Ashley Mahooney (Bethel University St. Paul MN) provided instruction on how to take a typical lab and give it a POGIL structure. The guiding questions introduced during each stage of the lab help guide students without providing direct answers. It really makes students think. They provided some of the best guiding questions seen that supports student learning.


What is the biggest learning experience from this conference? It is never about “me” but always “we” when helping students. Never be afraid to work with others, learn new things and find better ways to help students.